AlphaBay and Hansa, two dodgy marketplaces on the so-called 'dark web', have been shut down in what has been described as a "landmark" international law enforcement investigation.
The potential shut down of AlphaBay only came to light last week when punters took to Twitter and Reddit to complain about their lack of access and, in some cases, about Bitcoins that had been earned on the site suddenly being locked down.
Europol announced yesterday that it has raided and shut down AlphaBay, along with another dark web marketplace called Hansa, in what it is describing as "one of the most sophisticated takedown operations ever seen in the fight against criminal activities online".
Europol partnered with the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and the Dutch National Police to close down the sites, which it claims enabled thousands of vendors to sell illegal drugs.
Europol said there were 250,000 listings on AlphaBay alone, with 200,000 members and 40,000 vendors.
Rob Wainwright, executive director of Europol, said in a statement: "This is an outstanding success by authorities in Europe and the US. The capability of drug traffickers and other serious criminals around the world has taken a serious hit today after a highly sophisticated joint action in multiple countries.
"By acting together on a global basis the law enforcement community has sent a clear message that we have the means to identify criminality and strike back, even in areas of the dark web. There are more of these operations to come."
AlphaBay's servers were seized with the help of authorities in Thailand, Lithuania, Canada, the UK and France. The takedown operation included the arrest of suspected AlphaBay founder Alexandre Cazes on 5 July.
Cazes, a Canadian citizen, had been living in Thailand for almost a decade. He was found dead in his Thai jail cell just days after the arrest.
The Dutch National Police took control of Hansa, which many dark web punters reportedly flocked to after AlphaBay went offline earlier this month, on 20 June, seizing servers in Lithuania, the Netherlands and Germany.
The site was kept running for a month by the Dutch police in order to collect information about the site's users.
Europol notes that Dutch law enforcement acquired information on "high-value" targets and delivery addresses for a large number of orders as a result.
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