Feds shut down billion-dollar drug trafficking 'dark' site

Justice Department announces takedown of AlphaBay, the largest dark web market

In a press conference at the Justice Department's Washington headquarters, Attorney General Jeff Sessions described the strike against AlphaBay, the largest dark web drug market now in operation, as a major success in the Trump administration's effort to curb the explosive use of opioid drugs in the United States.

"By far, most of this activity was in illegal drugs, pouring fuel on the fire of a national drug epidemic", Sessions said.

The operations to seize AlphaBay's infrastructure was led by the USA with cooperation from six other countries and the European law enforcement agency Europol.

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

Like AlphaBay, the services operate on the dark web - a collection of websites only accessible using specific services to help hide users' identities.

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Dark web vendors are enabling the circulation of illegal weapons already on the black market in addition to offering customers "better performing, more recent firearms for the same, or lower, price, than what would be available on the street", the report said.

The Dutch police and Europol first gained control of Hansa on June 20, but didn't immediately shut it down.

Hansa was the third largest criminal marketplace on the dark web, and also specialised in trading illicit drugs and other illegal commodities.

The FBI then shut down AlphaBay and over the following weeks there was a huge migration of users from AlphaBay to Hansa, all of which was tracked by the European part of the team.

With the takedown of AlphaBay and Hansa, authorities said they have frozen millions of dollars worth of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin used to settle online transactions without the buyers and sellers being identified.

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Earlier this month 26-year-old Canadian citizen Alexandre Cazes was arrested in Bangkok on suspicion of being one of AlphaBay's operators. We know of several Americans who were killed by drugs on Alpha Bay.

"Unfortunately, the demand for these kinds of goods and services is large enough that we will always see other dark markets rise in place of those recently busted", said Joseph Lorenzo Hall, chief technologist at the Center for Democracy & Technology, a civil-liberties group in Washington.

Police in Thailand also seized millions of dollars in assets, three properties and four Lamborghini cars.

Rob Wainwright, the Executive Director of Europol, described the takedown as a "serious hit" to drug traffickers and "other serious criminals around the world", in a statement.

According to a press release from Europol, AlphaBay was home to "over 200,000 users and 40,000 vendors" with a "conservative" estimate of $1 billion in transactions.

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"There are more of these operations to come", a Europol official stated. That allowed police to access text files on Cazes' desktop that detailed account passwords for the dark web marketplace and its servers.

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