A police notice displayed on the DarkMarket website

Credit: Europol

Police forces from seven countries have taken down DarkMarket, the world’s largest illegal dark web marketplace, and arrested a 34-year-old Australian believed to be its mastermind.

DarkMarket was only accessible through a specialist web browser and allowed customers to purchase items such as hacking software, illegal drugs and stolen card information using cryptocurrency.

Europol, which coordinated the policing operation, said the website had almost 500,000 users including 2,400 sellers. The UK’s National Crime Agency and several US government departments also took part in the operation.

Three hundred and twenty thousand transactions using more than 4,650 bitcoin and 12,800 monero had taken place, police said, meaning €140m (£125m) worth of purchases using cryptocurrency had been made in the time the market was online.

German police from the city of Oldenburg over the weekend arrested an Australian man near the German-Danish border who is suspected of running the dark web site.  It came as more than 20 servers the site used in Moldova and Ukraine were seized.

The closure of DarkMarket is unlikely to permanently end the sale of illegal goods online. The shutdown of illegal marketplaces such as Silk Road in 2013 typically sees sellers migrate to rival marketplaces.

Ross Ulbricht was found guilty of operating Silk Road and was sentenced to two life imprisonment terms plus 40 years to be served concurrently with no chance of parole.

It’s possible that the seizure of the DarkMarket servers may lead to a wave of arrests of online drug dealers and their customers if their addresses and identities are deciphered by police.

“The stored data will give investigators new leads to further investigate moderators, sellers, and buyers,” Europol wrote in a statement.