Germany seizes $25 million in bitcoin as it shuts down a Russian-language darknet marketplace for illegal drugs

Bitcoin price

German law enforcement authorities said Wednesday they’ve shut down what was likely the world’s largest darknet marketplace and in doing so seized hundreds of bitcoins worth more than $25 million. 

The Russian-language darknet site called Hydra Market had been accessible through the Tor network since at least 2015, Germany’s Central Office for Combating Cybercrime, or ZIT, and the Federal Criminal Police Office, or BKA, said in a joint statement.

The authorities confiscated 543 bitcoins that were valued at about €23 million ($25 million) following investigations tracing back to August 2021. They said several US authorities were involved in the probes. 

The marketplace had around 17 million customers and more than 19,000 seller accounts were registered on the site which focused on trading in illegal narcotics, the German agencies said. 

“In addition, data spied out worldwide, forged documents and digital services were offered profitably via the platform,” they said, according to a translation of the press statement. 

Sales at Hydra Market were at least €1.23 billion euros in 2020. ZIT and BKA said the site’s Bitcoin Bank Mixer, a service for obfuscating digital transactions provided by the platform, made crypto investigations “extremely difficult” for law enforcement agencies.

News of the seizure arrived a day after the US Department of Justice said it seized $34 million worth of crypto-currency tied to illegal dark web activity. The seizure took place through a civil forfeiture filing against a South Florida resident who was “raking in millions” by using an online alias to sell more than 100,000 illicit items and hacked online account information on several of the world’s largest dark web marketplaces. 

The Florida filing marked one of the largest cryptocurrency forfeiture actions on record in the US, said the DOJ.

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