Police Seize World’s Two Largest Darknet Marketplaces

AlphaBay Shutdown Drove Users to Hansa, Where Police Were Already in Control

The FBI and Europol announced that they’ve jointly shuttered the world’s two biggest darknet marketplaces, AlphaBay and Hansa, which were responsible for more than 10 times the volume of sales as the notorious Silk Road marketplace.

At a Thursday news conference, the FBI and Europol announced that they’ve jointly seized the world’s two biggest darknet – or dark web – marketplaces, AlphaBay and Hansa, which were collectively responsible for more than 10 times the volume of sales as the notorius Silk Road marketplace.

AlphaBay launched in December 2014 and boasted more than 200,000 members and 40,000 vendors. Like Hansa, AlphaBay offered for sale everything from weapons and drugs to healthcare data and counterfeit payment cards.

But AlphaBay went dark over the July 4 weekend, leading users to suspect either that the administrators had committed an “exit scam” – disappearing with the millions of dollars’ worth of cryptocurrency being traded between buyers and sellers – or that the site had been shut down as part of a law enforcement operation.

It turns out that AlphaBay was shuttered thanks to an FBI and Drug Enforcement Agency-led operation, called Bayonet, that identified the site’s administrator, Canadian citizen Alexandre Cazes, 26. On July 5, at the request of the U.S. Department of Justice, he was detained by police in Thailand, where he was residing (see Darknet Marketplace AlphaBay Offline Following Raids).

Cazes was later found dead in his jail cell, apparently after taking his own life.

In the wake of AlphaBay going offline, security experts predicted many users would flock to alternative marketplaces, including the world’s then-largest darknet marketplace, called Hansa.

But it turns out that Dutch police had led an investigation that resulted in the arrest of two Hansa administrators in Germany and the seizure of servers in the Netherlands, Germany and Lithuania. On June 20, Dutch National Police secretly took control of the Hansa marketplace, under Dutch judicial authorization.

Hansa was shut down one month later, on Thursday, July 20. Seizure notices then appeared on the homepages of both AlphaBay and Hansa.

Also on Thursday, Dutch police arrested two alleged Hansa administrators from Siegen, Germany, and seized cryptocurrency accounts worth approximately $2.6 million. Then men, aged 30 and 31, were not named.

Secret Hansa Admins: Dutch Police

For one month, Dutch police watched and recorded everything that happened on Hansa.

“In the past few weeks, the Dutch police collected valuable information on high-value targets and delivery addresses for a large number of orders. Some 10,000 foreign addresses of Hansa market buyers were passed on to Europol,” according to a statement released by Europol, which is the EU’s law enforcement intelligence agency.

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