Aussie arrested over $220m ‘dark web’ drug site

 

An Australian accused of masterminding a $220 million 'Ebay for criminals' has been arrested in Germany.

Police stopped the 34-year-old as he was trying to escape from Denmark into Germany 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.

Police have smashed the criminal network linked to the site called DarkMarket.
Police have smashed the criminal network linked to the site called DarkMarket.

Jurgen Brauer, Attorney General at the Koblenz Public Prosecutors in north western Germany, said Julian K was arrested when he was trying to flee at the border.

"Exactly, he was crossing from Denmark," he said.

He said Julian K was not living in Germany before his arrest.

"No, he's Australian and he was here on a journey through Europe," he said.

"Whether he was on holiday here or was making connections, I can't say, but at any rate he was travelling around Europe."

Mr Brauer said the Queenslander was investigated following a breakthrough in a similar case called Cyberbunker, where a criminal group ran a dark web site out of a Cold War bunker.

"When we confiscated the whole server infrastructure these data too fell into our hands and that opened the door to these further investigations."

Mr Brauer said Julian K had help from at least two other administrators or managers of the DarkMarket.

"You have to imagine something like Ebay, a platform where anyone can register and then peddle their wares. This was like that and the person we've charged is as far as we know the man who founded the whole thing and took significant responsibility for it," he said.

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 there were 320,000 transactions on DarkMarket, mainly in cryptocurrencies. Picture: Supplied
German prosecutors said there were 320,000 transactions on DarkMarket, mainly in cryptocurrencies. Picture: Supplied

 

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," a statement from the Koblenz prosecutor's office said.

"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.

stephen.drill@news.co.uk

Originally published as Aussie arrested over $220m 'Ebay for criminals'


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