U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions (C) speaks at a press conference at the U.S. Justice Department in Washington D.C., the United States, on July 20, 2017. The world's largest "dark market" on the Internet, AlphaBay, has been shut down, the U.S. Justice Department (DOJ) said Thursday. (Xinhua/Ting Shen)
WASHINGTON, July 20 (Xinhua) -- The world's largest "dark market" on the Internet, AlphaBay, has been shut down, the U.S. Justice Department (DOJ) said Thursday.
The U.S. DOJ said in a statement that the so-called dark web marketeplace AlphaBay has been used to sell deadly illegal drugs such as fentanyl and heroin, stolen and fraudulent identification documents and access devices, counterfeit goods, malware and other computer hacking tools, firearms, and toxic chemicals since its creation in 2014.
In order to hide the locations of its servers and the identities of its administrators, moderators, and users, the website operated as a hidden service on the Tor network and utilized cryptocurrencies including Bitcoin, it said.
"This is likely one of the most important criminal investigations of this entire year," Attorney General Jeff Sessions said at a press conference announcing the takedown.
"Make no mistake, the forces of law and justice face a new challenge from the criminals and transnational criminal organizations who think they can commit their crimes with impunity by 'going dark,'" said Sessions.
"This case, pursued by dedicated agents and prosecutors, says you are not safe. You cannot hide. We will find you, dismantle your organization and network, and we will prosecute you," he said.
According to the U.S. DOJ, AlphaBa serviced over 200,000 users and 40,000 vendors and, around the time of takedown, there were over 250,000 listings for illegal drugs and toxic chemicals on the website, and over 100,000 listings for stolen and fraudulent identification documents and access devices, counterfeit goods, malware and other computer hacking tools, firearms and fraudulent services.
Comparatively, Silk Road, the largest dark web marketplace before Alpha Bay, which was seized in November 2013, had reportedly approximately 14,000 listings for illicit goods and services at the time of seizure, the department said.
On July 5, Alexandre Cazes, a 25-year-old Canadian citizen residing in Thailand, was arrested by Thai authorities for creating and running AlphaBay.
One week later, Cazes apparently took his own life while in custody in Thailand, the U.S. DOJ said.
An ongoing investigation also found an AlphaBay staffer living in the United States, but the U.S. DOJ revealed no further details.
The operation to seize the AlphaBay site was led by the United States and contributed by law enforcement authorities in Thailand, the Netherlands, Lithuania, Canada, the United Kingdom, and France, as well as the European law enforcement agency Europol.
The crackdown coincided with efforts by Dutch law enforcement to investigate and take down Hansa, the third largest criminal marketplace on the dark web which trades similarly high volumes in illicit drugs and other commodities.