Two of the largest dark web marketplaces have been shut down following a “landmark” international law enforcement investigation.
The AlphaBay and Hansa sites had been associated with the trade in illicit items such as drugs, weapons, malware and stolen data.
Police in the US and Europe collaborated on the operation.
According to Europol, there were more than 250,000 listings for illegal drugs and toxic chemicals on AlphaBay.
The agency said it believes that the bust will lead to hundreds of new investigations in Europe.
It was a “landmark” operation, according to US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) director Andrew McCabe.
AlphaBay has been offline since early July, fuelling suspicions among users that a law enforcement crackdown had taken place.
“We know of several Americans who were killed by drugs on AlphaBay,” said US Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
“One victim was just 18 years old when in February she overdosed on a powerful synthetic opioid which she had bought on AlphaBay.”
He also cautioned criminals from thinking that they could evade prosecution by using the dark web: “You cannot hide,” he added, “We will find you.”
Investigations were led by the FBI, the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and the Dutch National Police.
Police in other countries, including the UK, France and Lithuania, also contributed.
An alleged administrator of AlphaBay, 26-year-old Canadian Alexandre Cazes, was arrested in Thailand on 5 July following a joint operation between US, Canadian and Thai authorities.
Police also seized millions of dollars in assets, three properties and four Lamborghini cars.
But Cazes was later found dead in a Bangkok jail cell.
The Department of Justice said that he apparently took his own life.
More to follow…