Criminal dark web markets closed in major crackdown

Posted July 21, 2017

He accused online vendors of "pouring fuel on the fire of the national drug epidemic" and warned that "the darknet is not a place to hide".

Authorities say the operation, led by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency and Dutch police, shut down infrastructure belonging to the networks AlphaBay and Hansa, according to a press release from Europol.

According to the investigation, there were more than 250,000 listings on AlphaBay, as well as 200,000 members and 40,000 vendors.

"This is likely one of the most important criminal investigations of this entire year", Sessions said. In one instance, Sessions said, a 13-year-old boy died after overdosing on a synthetic opioid a junior high school classmate had purchased on AlphaBay.

EuroPol said a "conservative estimation" that $1 billion was traded on AlphaBay since 2014.

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"The capability of drug traffickers and other serious criminals around the world has taken a serious hit today after a highly sophisticated joint action in multiple countries", said Europol executive director Rob Wainright.

The way that the police operation was rolled out appeared created to give police as many new leads as possible.

Cazes, a Canadian citizen living in Thailand, was arrested on July 5 and is believed to have hanged himself in his cell on July 12.

In this instance, users of AlphaBay took to online forums like 4chan to discuss potential alternative dark web marketplaces, when Hansa's name was mentioned.

A recent investigation of 18 different online marketplaces that facilitate illegal firearms sales found 60 percent of the weapons being sold originated in the US, concluded RAND Europe and University of Manchester researchers in a report released Thursday.

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The site was used by "hundreds of thousands" of people to buy and sell illegal goods and services, such as drugs, stolen and fraudulent identification documents and access devices, counterfeit goods, malware and other hacking tools, firearms, and toxic chemicals, according to the DOJ.

The full month that Dutch police spent monitoring the activity on Hansa meant that worldwide police agencies had some 10,000 addresses for Hansa buyers outside of Holland. On June 20, Dutch National Police secretly took control of the Hansa marketplace, under Dutch judicial authorization.

Cazes, known online as "Alpha02", ran the website from its inception and controlled massive profits generated from the operation, collecting tens of millions of dollars in commissions, the government said. Servers were also seized in Canada and the Netherlands. Though it's very hard to trace users on the dark web, on the markets buyers regularly use their own addresses when making a purchase.

"This is a threat to our societies and our economies that we can only face together, on a global scale".

Described as "roughly ten times the size" of Silk Road, the dark web market Alpha Bay has been taken down in a joint effort between worldwide law enforcement, USA government departments and Europol.

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