German authorities confiscate over $25M Bitcoin from Russia’s largest darknet market

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TL;DR Breakdown

  • The German authorities have seized $25 million in Bitcoin (BTC) after shutting down Hydra Market, one of the world’s largest darknet markets.
  • According to the statement, Hydra Market was “most likely” one of the world’s most active illegal marketplaces.
  • According to the police statement, the Russian-language market also included a built-in bitcoin privacy mixer, making tracing the transactions more difficult.

The month of April has marked the most recent seizure of illicitly obtained funds in various cryptocurrencies. In late March, U.S. law enforcement agencies seized $20 million in Bitcoin from a drug trafficking operation on the dark web.

Today, the German authorities seized $25 million worth of bitcoin after shutting down one of the world’s largest darknet markets, Hydra Market. According to the statement, Hydramarket was “most likely” one of the world’s most active illegal marketplaces, with a Russian-language interface and a built-in bitcoin privacy mixer, making tracing the transactions more difficult.

Some criminals may use black markets rather than regulated exchanges as a means of exiting fiat. Hydra also provides cash-out services, allowing customers to exchange digital currency for gift cards, pre-paid debit cards, or even actual money. Hydra’s services, combined with the dark market’s reputation, make it a popular choice for criminals in the area.

543 Bitcoin confiscated

On April 5, the cybercrime office of the Frankfurt prosecutor’s office and federal criminal police seized 543 BTC from the site’s servers, according to a statement released by the local authorities. The market was shut down as part of “Operation Onymous,” an international law enforcement operation that has resulted in the seizure of millions of dollars worth of illicitly obtained funds in various cryptocurrencies.

During the operation, the Federal police were able to seize 17 million customers and 19,000 seller accounts. According to the statement, Hydra Market is known to have had the greatest turnover of any illegal market in the world. According to the authorities, revenue in the marketplace was €1.23 billion in 2020. Since late 2015, the Hydra Market darknet market has been available via the Tor browser. The site has been deleted from the internet.

Ciphertrace lists Hydra as Russia’s largest Dark market

Ciphertrace, a blockchain forensics firm, said the darknet market was mainly used for narcotics and served Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Uzbekistan, Moldova, Ukraine, and Armenia. According to the Ciphertrace study, Hydra has taken over as the leading Russian darknet market following RAMP’s shutdown (Russian Anonymous Marketplace) in 2017.

Originally, there were several other Russian marketplaces. RAMP, IKLAD, BLACKMARKET, SOLARIS, and RuSilk have all been listed as previous competitors by Hydra Market. Hydra launched a heavy advertising campaign on YouTube and other platforms, as well as allegedly launched DDoS attacks against its rivals (unverified). Hydra has surpassed its rivals and gained millions of customers.

Russia is facing a growing opioid crisis, and the Hydra darknet marketplace closure is seen as a way to get around Russian sanctions. Response to compliance with the Russian sanction has brought about the seizure of the Russian darknet markets. The Japanese government has recently announced that it will reform its foreign exchange rules to accommodate cryptocurrency exchanges. The government’s plan to implement sanctions against Russia is reflected in the proposed amendment. The shutdown of Hydra Market has come as a blow to the Russian darknet market scene, which is already reeling from the recent seizure of the country’s largest darknet marketplace, RAMP.

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