Working cooperatively, American and European authorities reported yesterday (July 20) that they have shut down two of the largest online black markets — AlphaBay and Hansa Market. Their respective operators have also been arrested.
AlphaBay has been down since early July — since the arrest of founder Alexandre Cazes, a Canadian national living in Bangkok. Cazes — who was 25 years old — reportedly committed suicide in jail shortly after being incarcerated.
The fall of AlphaBay pushed many eclectic shoppers to Hansa Market — the dark web Walmart to AlphaBay’s evil Amazon.
But as of yesterday, Dutch police were reporting that Hansa Market has been under their control since June and that they've been using the last several weeks to operate the site and monitor the vendors and customers. All in all, they've managed to collect information on people involved in the 50,000 or so transactions that took place. Two men in Germany were arrested as the operators of Hansa (their nationality seems to be unknown).
The online community of dark web enthusiasts were shaken by the news that the two markets had been taken down back to back.
“DO NOT MAKE NEW ORDERS ON ANY DNM ANY MORE!” a popular post on the social network Reddit said on Thursday, using initials for dark net markets. “You got this one law enforcement."
AlphaBay and Hansa Market were the follow-up act to Silk Road, which authorities took down in October 2013.
AlphaBay, at the time the lights were rather forcibly switched off, was boasting 200,000 users and 40,000 vendors — making it about 10 times the size of Silk Road, according to the Justice Department. That expanded size was used to support the sale of all kinds of very dark materials — most notably (according to The New York Times) synthetic opioids, like fentanyl, which have become central to the national consciousness since the opiate epidemic really got up and underway.
According to reports, 122 vendors had been advertising fentanyl on the site. Hansa Market had about 1,800 vendors selling drugs of all sorts, according to Dutch law enforcement.
“This is likely one of the most important criminal investigations of this entire year, I have no doubt about that,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said at a news conference on Thursday. “Most of this activity was for illegal drugs, pouring fuel on the fire of the national illegal drug epidemic.”