The take-down of the two largest criminal dark web markets in the world by European and American law enforcement authorities shows the important and necessary result of global cooperation to fight this criminality.
The AlphaBay and Hansa sites had been associated with the trade in illicit items such as drugs, weapons, malware and stolen data.
According to the investigation, there were more than 250,000 listings on AlphaBay, as well as 200,000 members and 40,000 vendors.
AlphaBay went offline on 5 July, when law enforcement arrested the creator and administrator of AlphaBay, a Canadian citizen living a "luxurious" life in Thailand.
United States police say servers and millions of dollars worth of cryptocurrencies have been seized in connection with their investigation. Cazes, who allegedly went by the nicknames "Alpha02" and "Admin", reportedly committed suicide while still in custody in Thailand. Together, they managed to covertly take control of Hansa a month ago, and monitor what illegal activities were going on there. After all, takedowns like the seizure of the Silk Road in 2013, and so-called Operation Onymous in 2014, which ended half a dozen top darknet sites, took chunks almost as large out of the darknet markets infrastructure. Dutch authorities had already seized Hansa, another another major dark web market, the previous month.
While the marketplace might have been little known outside of the shadowy world of the dark web, officials said it produced real world consequences. "We will continue to find, arrest, prosecute, convict and incarcerate criminals, drug traffickers and their enablers, wherever they are".
With Alphabay shut down, many of its users migrated to Hansa Market, making information gathering by Dutch authorities even more valuable. "There are more of these operations to come", Rob Wainwright, the executive director of Europol, said today at a joint press conference with the U.S. Attorney General, the acting Federal Bureau of Investigation director and the deputy director of the DEA in Washington, D.C. Earlier this week, Cazes was found dead in his Thai police cell, with police saying he apparently hanged himself with a towel. Like the Silk Road marketplaces before it, was a site hosted on the Tor network's hidden services - meaning it didn't leave a tracible internet address for authorities to track down. They then sat back and captured the identities of "all those new users displaced from AlphaBay who were looking for a new trading platform", Europe says. "There are more of these operations to come".
He said: "We are keenly aware there will be another Alpha Bay, but with each investigation we learn more".
But the operation, carried out in cooperation between American and European law enforcement agencies, is unlikely to kill off the online drug market.
He said: "We have learned a lot over the years about taking down worldwide criminal syndicates, and that same experience applies to organizations that are facilitated on the dark net". When it was shut down, AlphaBay had about 350,000 illegal goods and services listed for sale.
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