American and European authorities said yesterday they had shut down two of the largest online black markets, AlphaBay and Hansa Market, and arrested their operators.
AlphaBay, the largest so-called dark net market, was shut down in early July and the reported founder of the site, Alexandre Cazes, a Canadian living in Bangkok, arrested.
The 25-year old Cazes committed suicide in his jail cell shortly after his arrest, authorities said on Thursday.
After AlphaBay ceased operations, users streamed to one of its largest competitors, Hansa Market.
However, yesterday, the Dutch national police announced that they had taken control of Hansa Market in June and had been operating the site since then, monitoring the vendors and customers and gathering identifying details on those involved in the 50,000 transactions that took place.
Two men were arrested in Germany in June, and charged with operating Hansa Market. In earlier instances when dark net markets were shut, their users typically moved quickly to new markets but on Thursday, news of the joint operation led to panic in the user community.
''Dn Not Make New Orders on any DNM any more!'' a popular post on the social network Reddit said on Thursday, read. DNM stood for dark net markets.
Meanwhile, Europol said in a press release, ''Two major law enforcement operations, led by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and the Dutch National Police, with the support of Europol, have shut down the infrastructure of an underground criminal economy responsible for the trading of over 350 000 illicit commodities including drugs, firearms and cybercrime malware. The coordinated law enforcement action in Europe and the US ranks as one of the most sophisticated takedown operations ever seen in the fight against criminal activities online.
"This is an outstanding success by authorities in Europe and the US," Rob Wainwright, the executive director of Europol, said today, while appearing alongside the US attorney general, acting FBI director and deputy director of the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), at a special press conference in Washington DC.
"The capability of drug traffickers and other serious criminals around the world has taken a serious hit today after a highly sophisticated joint action in multiple countries. By acting together on a global basis the law enforcement community has sent a clear message that we have the means to identify criminality and strike back, even in areas of the Dark Web. There are more of these operations to come," he added.