An Australian accused of masterminding a $220 million illegal online marketplace where “all kinds” of illegal drugs were sold and dirty money was laundered has been arrested in Germany.
Police stopped the 34-year-old near the Germany-Denmark border after they smashed the criminal network linked to the site called DarkMarket.
A prosecutor in Germany told News Corp that the Australian arrested over the DarkMarket was named Julian K, from Queensland.
German authorities do not release full names in criminal investigations.
Australian police helped in the sting, which was sparked from a tip off based on an investigation into another Darknet site called the Wall Street Market, which was operating out of a former Cold War NATO bunker.
At least 20 servers were seized in Ukraine and Moldova, which the Australian allegedly used to host DarkMarket.
The Australian was arrested around the same time and appeared before a German judge but did not speak and was in jail on remand on Monday night.
“The 34-year-old alleged operator of DarkMarket, an Australian citizen, was arrested near the German-Danish border,” a statement from public prosecutors in Koblenz, said.
“At the same time, extensive infrastructure with more than 20 servers in Moldova and Ukraine was seized.
“From the data stored there, the investigators in turn expect new investigative approaches against the moderators, sellers and buyers of the marketplace.”
DarkMarket had more than half a million users and almost 2,400 sellers, offering counterfeit cash and credit cards, anonymous SIM cards that can be used to commit crimes, and “drugs of all kinds”.
German prosecutors said that there were over 320,000 transactions conducted on the site, with a value of $220 million, mainly in Bitcoin and Monero cryptocurrencies.
The site was shut down on Monday night Australian time.
“The police and the public prosecutor’s office were supported by a large number of domestic and foreign authorities.
“In addition to the state criminal investigation offices from Lower Saxony and Rhineland-Palatinate, the ZKI Oldenburg and the LZC co-operated with the American authorities FBI, DEA and IRS and the Australian, British, Danish, Swiss, Ukrainian and Moldovan police.”
DarkMarket had been co-ordinated in Oldenberg, two hours west of Hamburg in north western Germany, a short drive from the Danish border.
Police in Germany uncovered a Cold War bunker in September, 2019, where a criminal network was hosting the Wall Street Market.
The bunker, which was set up in the Cold War to be used by NATO forces, had 5000 sqm of space.
Criminals use encrypted passwords to use darknet sites, which allow them to hide their activity from authorities.
Police suspect that such sites are also used by child sex abusers.
The dark web, which was originally developed for the US military, has been overrun by criminal networks because they can conceal their activities.
Germany has a legal loophole where people cannot be prosecuted for hosting sites if they do not know what activity their users were engaging in.
The case against the Australian will centre on evidence he knew he was helping criminals ply their trade.
No details of the man’s name, nor location where he was from in Australia have been released.