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$25M in Bitcoin seized after German authorities shut down the world’s largest Darknet market

The Hydra Market has probably the highest turnover among illegal marketplaces worldwide with sales of at least €1.23 billion ($1.35 billion) in 2020 alone.

Photo by MichaelWuensch of Pixabay

Wed, 06 Apr 2022, 11:46 am UTC

German authorities have shut down one of the world’s largest illegal darknet marketplaces. The police were also able to seize 23 million euros worth of Bitcoin (around $25 million) during the operation, which shut down the Russian language darknet platform Hydra.

Germany’s Central Office for Combating Cybercrime (ZIT) and the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) confiscated Hydra’s servers in Germany, the BKA announced in a post on Tuesday. Authorities were also able to recover 543 Bitcoins valued at around EUR 23 million at that time.

The move came after extensive investigations were carried out by the ZIT and the BKA since August 2021, which also involved several US authorities.

The seizures carried out today were preceded by extensive investigations that have been conducted by the BKA and the ZIT since August 2021 and in which several US authorities were involved. Authorities described Hydra as the “world's largest illegal Darknet marketplace.”

German authorities started investigating the platform’s operators and administrators due to suspicion of operating criminal trading platforms on the internet. These include trading in illegal narcotics as well as commercial money laundering.

The Russian-language marketplace has around 17 million customers and over 19,000 seller accounts were registered on the platform. Authorities said that the Hydra Market has probably the highest turnover among illegal marketplaces worldwide with sales of at least €1.23 billion ($1.35 billion) in 2020 alone.

The platform can be accessed using the Tor browser and has been in operation since 2015. Hydra had a built-in Bitcoin privacy mixer making it more difficult to trace transactions.

According to blockchain analysis firm Elliptic, Hydra facilitated the laundering of around $7 billion in Bitcoin stolen from the 2016 hack of the Bitfinex exchange, Ars Technica reported. The platform also help the Dark Side ransomware group launder the money from Colonial Pipeline in 2021.

“Overall, today’s actions are a significant success for law enforcement, demonstrating that cyber criminals operating within Russia and surrounding countries are not immune to enforcement action,” Elliptic researchers said. “Today’s news is likely to have a significant impact on the Russian cybercrime community, and law enforcement should be praised for such a notable success.”

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