German officials shut down DarkMarket, Europe’s largest darknet drug market. According to Europol, the operation was an internationally coordinated investigation.
The Darknet operation involved law enforcement officers from Germany, Australia, Denmark, Moldova, the United Kingdom, and the United States and was supported by Europol.
DarkMarket allegedly allows users to trade in a variety of illegal items, including drugs, counterfeit money, stolen credit and debit card information, and computer malware. There were just under 500,000 regular users on the market with over 2,400 active vendors.
Users and sellers allegedly made more than 320,000 transactions, trading illegal products using cryptocurrencies. The payment includes over 4,650 bitcoins and 12,800 monero. In current valuations, this figure exceeds $ 170 million.
The operation was led by a cybercrime unit that forms part of the German Federal Prosecutor’s Office. Oldenburg’s local law enforcement arrested an Australian citizen who was the so-called mastermind of the site.
Department officers also located, shut down, and seized the site’s more than 20 servers in Moldova and Ukraine.
Europol claimed the operation as a victory for coordinating cross-border investigations in tackling this new dimension of cybercrime. One of its focus was understanding how illegal sellers are using new technologies such as cryptocurrency to facilitate their crimes.
An optimistic future
As the cryptocurrency industry matures, some in the community see law enforcement involvement as positive for the industry.
There is a debate that bitcoin must continue to shrug off any association with darknet activity in order to continue to attract large institutional investments that fuel the current bull run.
This step also comes as legislators around the world are trying to regulate the industry not only to reduce criminal activity but also to provide a legal framework that protects both regular users and investors.