BERLIN (AP) — German investigators on Tuesday shut down a Russian-language darknet marketplace that they say specialized in drug dealing, seizing bitcoin worth 23 million euros ($25.3 million).
Prosecutors in Frankfurt described the “Hydra Market” platform as the world’s biggest illegal darknet marketplace. They said they seized its server infrastructure in Germany.
The shutdown was the result of investigations underway since August, in which U.S. authorities participated.
The U.S. Treasury Department also announced Tuesday it was sanctioning Hydra as well as a virtual currency exchange, Garantex, that operates out of Russia. The department said both entities have been used to help finance the activities of ransomware gangs.
The Hydra platform had been active at least since 2015, German prosecutors said. They added that, as well as illegal drugs, forged documents, intercepted data and “digital services” were offered for sale. They said that it had about 17 million registered customer accounts and more than 19,000 registered sellers.
Prosecutors said the platform had sales of at least 1.23 billion euros in 2020.
Cybercrime research firm Elliptic said Hydra has facilitated over $5 billion in bitcoin transactions since 2015, receiving a boost after the closure of a key competitor in 2017.
“Listings on the site also included forged documents, data (such as credit card information) and digital services,” Elliptic said. “Products were advertised for sale in a number of countries such as Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan.”