The U.S. Department of Justice claimed to have shut down the Hydra Market, which is considered to be the world's largest illegal marketplace on the darknet. The agency said it was able to take down the darknet marketplace with the help of German authorities and law enforcement agencies in the U.S.
DOJ officials said the German Federal Criminal Police had sized several cryptocurrency wallets used in the marketplace containing bitcoins worth an estimated $25 million. Hydra Market, whose customers were mostly from Russian-speaking nations, is said to have been responsible for 80% of all darknet market-related bitcoin transactions last year.
According to the DOJ, the Hydra Market has collected nearly $5.2 billion in bitcoin for transactions on the site since 2015, raking in millions of dollars in fees. Authorities said the illegal marketplace allowed vendors to sell a wide range of drugs, including heroin, other opiates, cocaine, methamphetamine, and LSD, to connect with buyers who could grade dealers on a five-star scale. The darknet website also facilitated in sales of illegal services such as false documents, hacking tools, and money laundering.
Apart from seizing the marketplace's assets, officials said they had also managed to arrest and charge one of Hydra Market's alleged operators. The DOJ said they had arrested 30-year-old Dmitry Olegovich Pavlov. Authorities reportedly had to first obtain an indictment against the Russian citizen before they could arrest and charge him. Pavlov was charged with conspiracy to distribute narcotics and money laundering in connection to the Hydra Market.
U.S. officials said Pavlov had operated a company, which was established in 2015, that managed and administered the servers used by the Hydra Market. This allowed the illegal marketplace to become the largest platform where drug dealers and illegal vendors could operate and distribute their illegal goods and services. The DOJ said the marketplace had helped individuals launder billions of dollars in profits gained from illegal activities worldwide.
U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement that the entire infrastructure of the Hydra Market had been shut down. Garland acknowledged the assistance of his German counterparts in helping take down the illegal operation.
Garland said both the U.S. and its international partners would continue their work to disrupt and take down illegal darknet markets. He added that those behind the marketplaces would be tracked down and held accountable for their illegal acts. The darknet, or dark web, is a hidden part of the internet that is not searchable using normal web browsers and search engines. Users on the darknet also use different tools to hide their identities and mask their online transactions.