Australian arrested as German police shut down big darknet marketplace

Berlin: German prosecutors say they have taken down what they believe was the biggest illegal marketplace on the darknet and arrested its suspected operator, a 34-year-old Australian man.

The site, known as DarkMarket, was shut down on Monday, prosecutors in the south-western city of Koblenz said. All sorts of drugs, forged money, stolen or forged credit cards, anonymous mobile phone SIM cards and malware were among the things offered for sale there, they added.

An Australian man is in custody in Germany, suspected of running an illegal marketplace on the darknet.

The Australian man was arrested near the German-Danish border.

Prosecutors said a judge had ordered him held in custody pending possible formal charges, and he hasn't given any information to investigators.

German investigators were assisted in their months-long probe by US authorities and by Australian, British, Danish, Swiss, Ukrainian and Moldovan police.

The marketplace had nearly 500,000 users and more than 2400 vendors, prosecutors said. They added that it processed more than 320,000 transactions, and Bitcoin and Monero cryptocurrency to the value of more than €140 million euros ($220 million) were exchanged.

The darknet is a part of the web accessible only with specialised identity-cloaking tools.

More than 20 servers in Moldova and Ukraine were seized, German prosecutors said. They hope to find information on those servers about other participants in the marketplace.

Prosecutors said the move against DarkMarket originated in an investigation of a data processing centre installed in a former NATO bunker in south-western Germany that hosted sites dealing in drugs and other illegal activities. It was shut down in 2019.

That centre hosted DarkMarket at one point.


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