German officials have confiscated $25 million in Bitcoin (BTC) while shutting down “Hydra Market”, one of the largest darknet marketplaces based in Russia. The marketplace was founded in 2015, is the most well-known Russian darknet market and, by far, was one of the largest darknet markets in the world.
According to a federal police statement released on Tuesday, the cybercrime office of the Frankfurt prosecutor’s office and federal criminal police took 543 Bitcoins (BTC) while “securing” the site’s servers. A total of 17 million clients and 19,000 vendor accounts were discovered by federal agents.
According to the statement, Hydra Market has the greatest turnover among illegal marketplaces around the globe. According to the police, the marketplace made €1.23 billion ($1.35 billion) in income in 2020. CPO magazine, a cyber security newsletter, reported that Hydra grew by 624% from 2018 to 2020, accounting for 75% of all illegal internet transactions. Most of the transactions took place using cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin (BTC).
It has also attracted high-profile cybercriminals in the United States, notably the DarkSide gang behind the Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack.
According to the police statement, the Russian-language marketplace also contained a built-in bitcoin privacy mixer, which made tracing the transactions more difficult.
The Hydra Market was accessible using the Tor browser but has since been taken off the internet. According to blockchain forensics firm Ciphertrace, the market was mostly utilized for narcotics and served Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Moldova.
According to the police, the probe began in August 2021 and also included the participation of U.S. authorities.
As Bitcoin (BTC) and other cryptocurrencies become more prevalent, there is bound to be an increase in illicit activities that were previously carried out by cash. However, modern technology has also compensated with the availability of tools to track and catch criminals who are on the wrong side of the law.
Last year, a German-led police sting was also responsible for the shutting down of DarkMarket, a known darknet marketplace with approximately 500,000 members and over 2,400 suppliers worldwide. They also confiscated 4650 Bitcoin (BTC).