DOJ Claims Responsibility for Shutting Down Cryptomarkets AlphaBay and Hansa

21 July, 2017, 00:38 | Author: Lorena Waters
  • Justice Department announces takedown of AlphaBay, the largest dark web market

AlphaBay was about 10 times the size of Silk Road, the infamous dark web marketplace that U.S. authorities shut down in 2013 after arresting its creator, who was later convicted and given two life sentences.

The crackdown coincided with efforts by Dutch law enforcement to investigate and take down Hansa, the third largest criminal marketplace on the dark web which trades similarly high volumes in illicit drugs and other commodities.

According to Europol, the marketplaces, considered the successors to the infamous Silk Road, facilitated the criminal economy in trading over 350,000 illicit goods including drugs, firearms, toxic chemicals and cybercrime malware.

The takedown follows months of preparation and coordination from law enforcement in the US and Europe, led by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and the Dutch National Police, with the support of Europol, the European Union's law enforcement agency.

Meanwhile, the alleged creator and administrator of AlphaBay, a 25-year-old Canadian was arrested in Thailand on 5 July.

The Justice Department is also pursuing a forfeiture case against Cazes' assets, including a 2013 Lamborghini Aventador registered in Bangkok and six properties Cazes and his wife allegedly owned from Thailand to Cyprus, according to a press release. Together, they managed to covertly take control of Hansa a month ago, and monitor what illegal activities were going on there. "The dark net is not a place to hide". "You can not hide. We will find you".

On Thursday, Europol and the US Department of Justice jointly announced the fruits of a largest-ever sting operation against the dark web's black markets, including the seizure of AlphaBay, a market Europol estimates generated more than a billion dollars in sales of drugs, stolen data, and other illegal goods over its three years online.

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Indeed, AlphaBay had 200,000 members and 40,000 vendors.

Both Sessions and U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein ducked those questions, instead focusing on the bust. Hansa Market was open earlier this week and announced that it was planning to ban fentanyl from the site.

Identifying dark nets sites is notoriously hard as they often operate as hidden services, using the free anonymity software Tor to protect their operators' identities from law enforcement. Day-to-day operations were run with the help of as many as ten anonymous employees who went by names that included "Disc0", "Trappy", "BigMuscles", "Botah", "Onionhood" and "MountainHigh9".

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This story will be updated throughout the day. He was followed by Europol Executive Director Rob Wainwright, who claimed that this takedown was "a taste of what is to come in the future".

"This operation is an example of the improving concerted ability of law enforcement to strike against criminals, even on the dark net", he said. "Most of this activity was for illegal drugs, pouring fuel on the fire of the national illegal drug epidemic".

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