Thursday, 14 December, 2017

US, European police say 'dark web' markets shut down

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Preston Stone | 21 July, 2017, 00:33

An global police investigation into the trade of illicit items on the dark web has culminated in two of the biggest dark web marketplaces - AlphaBay and Hansa - being shut down.

Europol said Hansa was the third-largest criminal marketplace on the darknet, and traded similarly high volumes in illicit drugs and other commodities.

There were as many as 250,000 listings for the sale of illegal drugs and chemicals on AlphaBay alone according to Europol.

The Dutch National Police actually seized control of Hansa on June 20, but continued running the site to covertly monitor the platform until it was shut down a month later.

Alexandre Cazes, 26, who ran the site was arrested earlier this month in Thailand and was found dead in his cell last week, taking his own life.

U.S. police say servers and millions of dollars worth of cryptocurrencies have been seized in connection with their investigation.

In addition, Dutch authorities just took down another leading dark net marketplace, known as Hansa Market, the Justice Department said on Thursday. A Canadian living in Thailand, he was arrested on July 5, 2017, and the site was pushed offline.

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Darknet marketplaces have generated massive police heat after risky synthetic drugs, such as fentanyl - the substance at the heart of drug epidemics in multiple countries, including Canada and the United States - were constantly offered for sale on the websites. "Some 10,000 foreign addresses of Hansa market buyers were passed on to Europol", according to a statement released by Europol, which is the EU's law enforcement intelligence agency.

Sessions also tied the marketplace to several heroin and fentanyl overdoses in the USA, emphasizing AlphaBay's connection to the opioid crisis. USA law enforcement working with their counterparts in the Netherlands and with the continent-wide law enforcement agency Europol, were able to identify the individuals behind Hansa and shut it down. 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.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions called the AlphaBay closure "the largest takedown in world history", targeting some 40,000 vendors who marketed a quarter-million listings for illegal drugs to more than 200,000 customers.

"We know of several Americans who were killed by drugs on AlphaBay", he said.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions says this take-down shows the world that criminals can not use the dark web to hide any more. "We will continue to find, arrest, prosecute, convict and incarcerate criminals, drug traffickers and their enablers, wherever they are".

Silk Road, formerly the biggest illegal online marketplace, operated from 2011 to 2013. He was awaiting extradition to the USA when, on July 12, he was found hanged in his jail cell, reported the Bangkok Post. He said that whilst this may be the case, that is the nature of criminal work - it never goes away, you have to constantly keep at it, and you have to use every tool in your toolbox, and "that is exactly what we will do". "We face many challenges and require worldwide assistance to overcome those challenges".

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