Authorities Shutter Sprawling Dark Web Drug Bazaar and Seize Around $35 Million in Bitcoin

Authorities Shutter Sprawling Dark Web Drug Bazaar and Seize Around $35 Million in Bitcoin

Hydra, a longtime dark web cesspool of money laundering and drug sales, has been shut down by police.

On Tuesday, officials with Germany’s Federal Criminal Police Office announced Hydra’s demise, revealing in a press release that authorities had seized much of the site’s server infrastructure, as well as some 543 Bitcoin from the site — equivalent to approximately $US25 million (around $35 million) . Authorities say they have been investigating the illicit market’s activities since last August, with the help of several U.S. agencies, including the Justice Department, the FBI, and the Drug Enforcement Agency.

A Russian-language darknet marketplace, Hydra has been one of the largest sources of online illicit trade for several years now. The site, which has existed since at least 2015, had approximately 17 million customers and some 19,000 listed sellers prior to its shutdown, German police said. During its reign, Hydra was known as a hub for drug trafficking and obscuring the origins of cash, and its customers were based largely in eastern European states like Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan, according to the blockchain analysis firm Elliptic. Since it launched, Hydra has seen upwards of $US5 billion (around $7 billion) in Bitcoin transactions, Elliptic assesses.

“The illegal marketplace was a Russian-language Darknet platform that had been accessible via the Tor network since at least 2015,” said German police officials in their press release Tuesday. “Its sales amounted to at least 1.23 billion euros in 2020 alone. In particular, the Bitcoin Bank Mixer, a service for obfuscating digital transactions provided by the platform, made crypto investigations extremely difficult for law enforcement agencies.”

Granted, dark web sites do have a habit of getting resurrected — and online crime, like offline crime, will almost always spring anew in the void of what was just taken down. Just look at the well-known crime den AlphaBay, which originally launched back in 2014 but was quashed in a police takedown in 2017. The site came back to life last summer after an administrator from the original project decided to relaunch it.

In other words, so long Hydra…for now. It remains to be seen if the site, like the mythic beast it’s named after, will regrow its heads.

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