German investigators have detained the alleged operator of DarkMarket, said to be the largest illegal online marketplace in the world, prosecutors in the city of Koblenz say.
Officials have been mum on just who was arrested in connection with the darknet - referring to the man only as a 34-year-old "Australian national" who was apparently taken into custody by police somewhere near the German-Danish border, Barron's reports. Officers said they also seized more than 20 servers in Moldova and Ukraine that DarkMarket relied on to function.
Authorities say drugs, counterfeit money, stolen credit card data, anonymous SIM cards and malware were all traded on the site, which had a half a million users and transacted business in cryptocurrencies equivalent to a value of €140 million ($170 million).
Until this week, the site DarkMarket boasted almost half a million users, over 200,000 re-sellers, and was considered to be one of the most popular havens for criminals looking to digitally swap drugs, malware, stolen credit card data, and SIM cards, among other things.
"Investigators were able to shut down the marketplace and turn off the server on Monday", they added, calling it a months-long worldwide law enforcement operation.
They are popular with criminals, as buyers and sellers are largely untraceable.
The prime suspect was brought before a judge but declined to speak. He was placed in pre-trial detention.
German investigators were assisted in their months-long probe by USA authorities and by Australian, British, Danish, Swiss, Ukrainian and Moldovan police.
The DarkMarket was the second platform operating under that name, since the original site was shut down in 2008 by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The EU narcotics agency sounded the alarm in September that the pandemic was failing to disrupt drug smugglers and dealers, as users and sellers were using the web for their supply.