The world’s biggest drugs marketplace on the dark web has been shut down, the US Justice Department has said.
The marketplace AlphaBay had allowed hundreds of thousands of people to buy illegal drugs, said attorney general Jeff Sessions.
AlphaBay mysteriously went offline earlier this month. It was widely considered the biggest online black market for drugs, estimated to host daily transactions totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars.
When it was up, it sold drugs to more than 40,000 vendors that supplies more than 200,000 clients, law enforcement officials said. Dealers were able to buy drugs like fentanyl and heroin by using a technology called Tor, which allows people to browse anonymously and was originally created to avoid surveillance.
The site was also being used to trade in weapons and malware, law enforcement said.
The site has been referred to as a new Silk Road – the website that was a centre for drug, arms and other illegal trafficking before it was shut down. But actually it was far larger.
Before it was taken down, police and other law enforcement officials appear to have been running the site. That means they will likely have the details of many of the people who were using it.
Mr Sessions and other federal officials announced an indictment in California on Thursday of a suspected administrator of the site, and the Justice Department filed a forfeiture complaint to seize assets connected to the operation.
He also said that law enforcement was working with colleagues in the Netherlands who had taken down Hansa Market, another dark web marketplace.
“This is an outstanding success by authorities in Europe and the US,” said Rob Wainwright, the executive director of Europol, during a special press conference in Washington DC. “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,” he added.