Amid the crackdown on Russia, German and US authorities announced Tuesday that they have dismantled the “largest” global dark web selling platform called “Hydra Market” and has been operating in Russian since 2015, seizing bitcoins worth 23 million euros.
“The servers of the world’s largest darknet market have been confiscated and 543 bitcoins with a total value of about 23 million euros have been confiscated,” the Frankfurt Public Prosecutor’s Office and the Federal Criminal Police Office said in a joint statement.
Investigators suspect that the platform, which attracts 17 million customers, is used for criminal activities and money laundering through more than 19,000 seller accounts.
The largest illegal market in the world
Sales on the Hydra Market platform amounted to about 1.23 billion euros in 2020 alone, making it the “highest illegal market in the world,” according to the statement.
For its part, Bloomberg quoted Kim Groer, head of research at Chainalysis, as saying that “Hydra dominates the market because Ukraine and Russia are the largest users of cryptocurrency in the world.”
The Russian-language site, which can be accessed via Tor, was mainly used for drug trafficking, stolen data and forged documents.
Poster on the site
In turn, the German authorities indicated that on Tuesday, a poster was placed on the Hydra website indicating that the police had seized it.
The use of a sophisticated service called the “Bitcoin Bank Mixer” allowed for the concealment of digital financial transactions in cryptocurrencies, which made the investigation more difficult, according to the Federal Criminal Police Office.
Investigations began in 2021, but the identities of the operators and those responsible for the platform are still unclear.
The dismantling of the platform was carried out in cooperation with the US authorities, according to the Federal Office of the German Criminal Police.
‘Our work is not over’
In this context, US Attorney General Merrick Garland said that “in cooperation with our German partners, we have seized the infrastructure of the largest market on the darknet in the world, but our work is not finished,” pledging to continue working to dismantle all similar platforms on the darknet.
And the US judiciary had previously charged Russian Dmitry Pavlov, 30, with an indictment for managing servers used to run Hydra. According to the indictment, Pavlov is being pursued on charges of drug trafficking and money laundering as part of a criminal gang.
The US Treasury has also imposed economic sanctions on Hydra as well as the Garantex virtual currency exchange.
In addition, “more than 100 addresses” have been identified of people who received funds as part of cryptocurrency transactions conducted through Hydra and that were “used to carry out illegal transactions.”
The German authorities had previously dismantled the DarkMarket platform in early 2021. At the time, investigators presented this platform as the “widest” point of purchase on the electronic black market.
Which led, after a few months, to the arrest of 150 people who were buying or selling drugs or weapons all over the world.