Law enforcement agencies in Germany have targeted Hydra, a leading darknet market (DNM). As part of an operation conducted with U.S. support, the German police were able to establish control over the servers of the Russian-language platform in the country and take down its website.
Investigators Hit Hydra in Germany, Confiscate Millions in Crypto
Hydra Market, one of the largest marketplaces on the darknet, has been shut down by German authorities which seized its server infrastructure. According to an announcement by the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA), law enforcement agents also confiscated bitcoin worth around €23 million ($25 million). The following message appeared on Hydra’s website on Tuesday:
BKA carried out the raid together with the Central Office for Combating Cybercrime (ZIT) at the Public Prosecutor’s Office in Frankfurt which is leading the investigation against Hydra’s operators and administrators. They are wanted for running illegal online platforms facilitating the trade of drugs and money laundering.
The German police noted that Hydra had been active since at least 2015 before the seizures which came after extensive investigations by the BKA and ZIT. They started in August last year and were conducted with the participation of several U.S. agencies.
The darknet marketplace, which was accessible via the Tor network, was targeting Russian speakers. It had around 17 million customers and over 19,000 registered sellers, the press release detailed. Besides banned substances, these also offered stolen data, forged documents and digital services.
Hydra became a major darknet market after overtaking another Russian platform, DNM Ramp. According to the data compiled by the blockchain forensics company Chainalysis, the region of Eastern Europe sends more digital currency to darknet marketplaces than any other region.
Washington has been alleging Moscow’s involvement with malicious cyber actors like DNMs, ransomware groups and other crypto-related crime. In September, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) sanctioned the Russia-based crypto broker Suex which is believed to have received more than $20 million from darknet markets like Hydra.
The Treasury Department has imposed sanctions against Hydra and a crypto exchange called Garantex. The trading platform, which has been operating mostly out of Russia, is suspected of processing over $100 million in transactions linked to illicit actors and darknet markets, including $2.6 million from Hydra.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Justice announced criminal charges against a Russian resident, Dmitry Pavlov, for conspiracy to distribute narcotics and conspiracy to commit money laundering. The 30-year-old Pavlov is allegedly the administrator of Hydra Market’s servers.
German law enforcement officials think that Hydra was likely the darknet market with the highest turnover globally. BKA and ZIT have estimated that its sales reached at least €1.23 billion in 2020 alone. They also noted that the investigations were hampered by the platform’s own ‘Bitcoin Bank Mixer’ service.