Globally coordinated operation takes down two dark web markets
Working with the support of Europol, the FBI, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and the Dutch National Police brought down two of the top three dark web markets, AlphaBay and Hansa darkweb.
“This is an outstanding success by authorities in Europe and the US,” Rob Wainwright, the Executive Director of Europol, said today, while appearing alongside the US Attorney General, Acting FBI Director and Deputy Director of the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), at a special press conference in Washington DC. “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. By acting together on a global basis the law enforcement community has sent a clear message that we have the means to identify criminality and strike back, even in areas of the Dark Web. There are more of these operations to come,” he added.
Popular Dark Web marketplaces
AlphaBay was the largest criminal marketplace on the Dark Web, utilising a hidden service on the Tor network to effectively mask user identities and server locations. Prior to its takedown, AlphaBay reached over 200 000 users and 40 000 vendors. There were over 250 000 listings for illegal drugs and toxic chemicals on AlphaBay, and over 100 000 listings for stolen and fraudulent identification documents and access devices, counterfeit goods, malware and other computer hacking tools, firearms, and fraudulent services. A conservative estimation of USD 1 billion was transacted in the market since its creation in 2014. Transactions were paid in Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. Hansa was the third largest criminal marketplace on the Dark Web, trading similarly high volumes in illicit drugs and other commodities. The two markets were created to facilitate the expansion of a major underground criminal economy, which affected the lives of thousands of people around the world and was expressly designed to frustrate the ability of law enforcement to bring offenders to justice.
Law Enforcement Raids
In Thailand, 26-year-old Canadian national Alexander Cazes was taken into custody at his residence in Bangkok. This was after the U.S. issued a warrant for his arrest pending drug trafficking charges.
It is certain that Cazes is in fact the founder of AlphaBay, publically known as DeSnake. Soon after his arrest, officials found Cazes dead in his jail cell after hanging himself with a towel.
Several websites run by Cazes appear to be associated with AlphaBay, and they seem to have gone offline at the same time AlphaBay was seized.
After AlphaBay disappeared, other emerging darknet markets have responded to the situation in some way or another.
For instance, Hansa stopped all new registrations from occurring because of technical problems.
But other emerging dark web marketplaces such as Dream Market and Silk Road 3.1 continue to welcome new members.