Justice Department announces 'largest darknet takedown in history'

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A global cyber crime investigation led by U.S. and European officials has shut down Alphabay and Hansa Market, illegal marketplaces on the so-called dark web that conducted transactions worth tens of millions of dollars a month in recreational drugs, stolen credit card numbers, and weapons.

European law enforcement authorities say AlphaBay had more than 200,000 users, 40,000 vendors, with listings for more than 250,000 listings for drugs and other illicit substances.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced this morning that the Justice Department, in coordination with law enforcement agencies around the globe, was responsible for shutting down the cryptomarket AlphaBay on July 4 as part of Operation Bayonet. You can not hide. We will find you, dismantle your organization and network.

AlphaBay sold illegal goods, including drugs, anonymously.

Alphabay and Hansa advertised drugs, chemicals, counterfeit documents, weapon and computer malware among many other items and services, cloaking users in anonymity.

The operation was led by the United States but involved cooperation among worldwide law enforcement in Thailand, the Netherlands, Lithuania, Canada, the United Kingdom, and France, as well as the European police agency. Thai police arrested Cazes earlier this month on behalf of the United States, though Cazes apparently committed suicide while in Thai custody, according to the Justice Department.

The Cazes indictments lists 11 transactions in which undercover agents purchased marijuana, heroin, fentanyl, methamphetamine, fake driver licenses, and an ATM skimming machine from vendors on AlphaBay.

Europol's executive director hailed the success of the operation.

AlphaBay had grown to become a the world's largest online drug market, and according to acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, was at the time of its shuttering 10 times the size of Silk Road.

"Everyone out there may be speculating that the other market DreamMarket, could be compromised as well", he said.

Europol said that the closure of AlphaBay and Hansa will lead to hundreds of new investigations in Europe alone.

Both markets are accessible via the Tor browser, used to access the dark web.

Visitors first noticed AlphaBay was down on July 5, when Alexandre Cazes, better known as Alpha02, the website's creator and admin, was arrested in Thailand.

The 26-year-old was arrested the day after the site disappeared and was reportedly later found hanged in his jail cell in Bangkok.

Cazes had a net worth of over $23 million, according to the complaint.

According to the DOJ, Cazes and his wife "amassed numerous high-value assets, including luxury vehicles, residences, and a hotel in Thailand", plus "millions of dollars in cryptocurrency", which has been seized by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Drug Enforcement Administration.

"Europol has been supporting the investigation of criminal marketplaces on the Dark Web for a number of years", the organization noted.

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