One of the world's largest online criminal marketplaces for drugs, hacking tools and financial-theft wares was broken up following a series of raids in the United States and Germany authorities confirmed on Friday.
The nearly two-year operation involved the European policy agency Europol, authorities in the Netherlands, the US and Germany.
Their investigation pinpointed three Germans, aged 31, 22, 29 and identified them as Tibo Lousee, Jonathan Kalla and Klaus-Martin Frost as the administrators of the platform of the so-called “Wall Street Market” on the dark net.
They faces drug charges in Germany on allegations that they administered the platform where cocaine, heroin and other drugs as well as forged documents and other illegal material were sold.
They also face charges in the US for conspiring to launder money and distribute illegal drugs, according to a criminal complaint filed in the Los Angeles federal court.
A Brazilian man, identified as Marcos Paulo De Oliveira-Annibale, 29 - the site's alleged moderator - has also been charged in connection to the platform.
There have not been confirmations yet if he was arrested in Brazil.
As we know, the internet also has an underground site known as the dark web.
Within that dark web are what are referred to as dark nets.
The dark net is the part of the internet often used for criminal activity that is hosted within an encrypted network and is accessible only by using anonymity-providing tools, such as the Tor browser.
“The charges filed in Germany and the United States will significantly disrupt the illegal sale of drugs on the darknet” said Ryan White, assistant US attorney, while speaking to reporters on Friday in Germany.
Wall Street Market allegedly hosted some 5,400 sellers and more than one million customer accounts says Frankfurt prosecutor Georg Ungefuk.
Transactions on their platform were conducted using cryptocurrencies, and the suspects allegedly took commissions ranging from 2 to 6 percent says Ungefuk.
The site also trafficked documents such as identity papers and drivers' licences, but an estimated 60 percent of business was drug-related adds the prosecutor.
When the platform was switched into 'maintenance mode' on 23 April, authorities quickly swept in as the suspects had allegedly begun transferring funds from the platform to themselves in a so-called 'exit scam' adds Ungefuk.
Approximately 11 million dollars were made from the exit scam says the US Department of Justice.
Wall Street Market is likely the second biggest platform to be taken down.
There are other investigations in place, but out of fear of jeopardizing them, Ungefuk is not naming them.
But taking down Wall Street Market is unlikely to have a lasting impact on online criminal activity says Patrick Shortis, a criminology researcher at the University of Manchester.
Law enforcement officials still need to go after the sellers and the customers to really tackle the problem.
(with news wires)