German Police Impound $25 Million in Crypto from Illegal Marketplace

  • The world’s largest illegal marketplace operating on the Russian dark web has been shut down
  • German authorities have seized around $25 million in Bitcoin from the operation so far
  • Reports claim the platform’s users were involved in money laundering and narcotics

German police shut down the illegal Darknet marketplace known as Hydra Market on Tuesday, according to an official statement released by the Frankfurt Main Public Prosecutor’s Office. 

The operation led by Germany’s Central Office for Combating Cybercrime (ZIT) and the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) also seized some 543 Bitcoins from the platform. At today’s prices, the seizure amounts to an estimated $25,298,424.

According to details from the report, Hydra Market existed as the biggest illicit dark web marketplace in the world prior to its shut down. Although it remains unclear when the platform was indeed launched, authorities have surmised that Hydra has operated since around 2015.

Back in June 2021, on-chain cybersecurity outfit Ciphertrace released a report detailing Hydra’s core market. Data from the report explained that the illegal market originated in Russia and serviced over 19 million customers from countries including Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Moldova.

In addition, German forces disclosed that at least 19,000 seller accounts were active and the platform also leveraged a built-in Bitcoin mixing service. 

Finally, Hydra allegedly facilitated international narcotics trade and money laundering operations. An excerpt from the report reads:

Among other things, there is a suspicion of the commercial operation of criminal trading platforms on the Internet, the commercial procurement or granting of an opportunity for the unauthorized purchase or the unauthorized sale of narcotics and commercial money laundering.

Russia Cybercriminals Leverage Crypto for Illicit Activities

Blockchain security firm Chainalysis published a report earlier in February 2022, tagging Russia as a hub for crypto-based crimes. According to the report, cryptocurrency businesses in Moscow allegedly processed over $296 million worth of darknet market proceeds between 2019 and 2021.

Data from the report further explains that Russian criminals have continued to abuse the anonymity afforded by cryptocurrencies. However, Chainalysis also opined that cybersecurity teams across the world have risen to the challenge and increased efforts to combat illegal crypto activities.