US-German operation shuts down world’s largest darknet market

German authorities on Tuesday, in coordination with the US Department of Justice, shut down Hydra Market, a Russian-language site they described as the world’s largest and oldest illegal market on the dark web.

Federal prosecutors in San Francisco have also filed money laundering and drug trafficking charges against a 30-year-old Russian resident, Dmitry Olegovich Pavlov, described as the site’s alleged administrator.

In court documents, the Justice Department estimated that the Hydra market accounted for 80% of all cryptocurrency transactions on the dark net, generating $5.2 billion in sales since 2016. German officials and Americans said authorities seized cryptocurrency worth $25.3 million when they closed the market. .

Prosecutors said the marketplace allowed users, primarily in Russian-speaking countries, to buy and sell illegal drugs, stolen financial data and fraudulent identity documents, including US passports and driver’s licenses. The site also offered money laundering services, according to court documents.

A cybercrime research firm, Elliptic, said the products were advertised for sale in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan.

“The Department of Justice will not allow darknet and cryptocurrency markets to be a safe haven for money laundering and the sale of hacking tools and services,” the Deputy Attorney General said. Lisa Monaco.

Court documents said Hydra allowed sellers to create accounts and advertise illegal products, and buyers could create accounts to buy them. Among the illegal drugs offered for sale were cocaine, methamphetamines, LSD and heroin.

Buyers rated sellers on a five-star range, which were displayed on the site along with customer reviews. German officials said the market has around 17 million buyer accounts and more than 19,000 seller accounts.

“It was the Amazon-dot-com of the dark web,” a Justice Department official said.

The US Treasury Department on Tuesday announced sanctions against the Hydra market and Garantex, a Russian-based virtual currency exchange. He said the two helped fund gangs that carried out ransomware attacks.

James R. Rhodes