US Attorney General Merrick Garland addresses the Justice Department press after all three defendants were found guilty on federal hate crime charges in the murder of a young black man, Ahmaud Arbrey, February 22, 2022 in Washington, DC, United States.
Nicholas comb | Reuters
Hydra Market, believed to be the world’s largest and oldest dark web marketplace for illegal items and services, was seized and shut down Tuesday by German authorities in coordination with US law enforcement, the US Department of Justice said.
The DOJ also charged one of the alleged operators of Hydra Market with conspiracy to distribute narcotics and conspiracy to commit money laundering.
In addition, the German federal criminal police seized $25 million worth of cryptocurrency wallets containing bitcoins from the marketplace, the DOJ said.
The Darknet or Dark Web is the collection of websites hidden from regular search engines and web browsers, accessed by users with browsers that hide their identities.
Hydra Market, whose users mostly reside in Russian-speaking countries, accounted for an estimated 80% of all cryptocurrency transactions related to the dark web market last year, according to the Justice Ministry.
Since 2015, Hydra Market has received approximately $5.2 billion in cryptocurrency for transactions on the site and received millions of dollars in commissions on those sales, the DOJ said.
Hydra Market allowed sellers of a wide range of drugs — including heroin, other opioids, cocaine, methamphetamine and LSD — to connect with customers of those narcotics, who US prosecutors said could rate sellers using a five-star system.
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The marketplace also facilitated the sale of fake ID documents, hacking tools and services, and Bitcoin money laundering services.
The DOJ said it has received an indictment against a resident of Russia, 30-year-old Dmitry Olegovich Pavlov, of conspiracy to distribute narcotics and conspiracy to commit money laundering in connection with his operation and administration of the servers running Hydra.
As of late 2015, Pavlov reportedly ran a company that managed Hydra’s servers, “which enabled the market to act as a platform used by thousands of drug dealers and other illicit vendors to sell large quantities of illicit drugs and other illicit goods and… services to thousands of buyers and laundering billions of dollars derived from these illicit transactions,” according to the DOJ.
“Together with our German law enforcement partners, we have seized the infrastructure of the world’s largest dark web market, but our work is far from over,” US Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement.
“We will continue to work with our international and cross-agency partners to disrupt and disrupt dark web markets and hold those perpetrating their crimes on the dark web accountable for their actions,” Garland added.