German police said Tuesday they have shut down servers of the world’s largest illegal darknet marketplace Hydra, and seized bitcoins worth 23 million euros ($25 million).
Suspects are being investigated for “operating criminal trading platforms on the internet on a commercial basis”, the BKA federal police said in a statement.
The statement headlined with “illegal darknet marketplace ‘Hydra Market’ shut down.”
Investigations of the Russian illegal marketplace started in August 2021 and also involved several US authorities, the BKA said.
Founded in 2015, Hydra served Russian-speaking markets, selling narcotics but also stolen credit card data, counterfeit currency and fake identity documents, masking the identities of those involved using the Tor encryption network.
The marketplace had around 17 million customer accounts and over 19,000 vendor accounts, according to the BKA.
“The Hydra market was probably the illegal marketplace with the highest turnover worldwide” with sales amounting to at least 1.23 billion euros in 2020 alone, it said.
The “Bitcoin Bank Mixer” provided by the platform, a service for concealing digital transactions, had made investigations especially difficult, it added.
A seizure banner has been published on the marketplace’s website.
The secret “darknet” includes websites that can be accessed only with specific software or authorisations, ensuring anonymity for users.
Such networks have faced increased pressure from international law enforcement after a boom in usage during the coronavirus pandemic.
A German-led police sting also last year took down the notorious darknet marketplace DarkMarket, which had nearly 500,000 users and more than 2,400 vendors worldwide.