Officials in Germany have shut down a covert illegal online marketplace and detained three men they say are responsible for leading the online trading platform, according to a report by Reuters.
The Frankfurt public prosecutors office said on Friday (May 3) that the marketplace, called the “Wall Street Market,” was the second largest in the world. It was used to trade private data, drugs, fake documents and malware. It had 1.15 million customer accounts and upwards of 5,400 registered merchants.
The three men were detained around April 23, and they were aged 22, 29 and 31. Germany’s federal criminal investigation office secured the marketplace’s server infrastructure. The detained men took between 2 and 6 percent of sales on the platform.
The men were captured after a joint operation, started in March, by the European Union’s Europol agency.
The federal criminal investigation office took what it called “operational measures” when the marketplace was switched to maintenance mode on April 23 and the men started depositing the money from the platform to themselves.
Covert illegal marketplaces are often known as the “Darknet,” and in March, the Federal Bureau of Investigation announced that its Joint Criminal Opioid and Darknet Enforcement (J-CODE) team made 61 arrests and shut down 50 darknet accounts used for illicit activity.
In a press release, the FBI said the action, part of Operation SaboTor, a coordinated international effort to stop drug trafficking organizations operating on the darknet, resulted in it executing 65 search warrants, seizing 299.5 kilograms of drugs, 51 firearms and more than $7 million. Of that, $4.5 million was in cryptocurrency, $2.48 million in cash and $40,000 in gold. The operation was conducted from Jan. 11 to March 12 of this year.
The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) as well as international partners teamed up for the initiative. The FBI said in the press release it detected and disrupted the most “prolific opioid vendors” on the darknet and dismantled their operations. It follows on the heels of a previous sting that proved successful for law enforcement.