Wiesbaden, Germany - The authorities in the European Union and the United States have broken up the world's second-largest Darknet marketplace, making three arrests in Germany and two in the US, police in both countries said on Friday.
Those arrested in Germany are a 31-year-old man from the state of Hesse, a 22-year-old man from North Rhine Westphalia and a 29-year-old man from Baden Wuerttemberg, the prosecutors' office in Frankfurt and federal police in Wiesbaden said.
The men are alleged to have offered stolen data, forged documents, computer malware and especially drugs via a Darknet platform called "Wall Street Market."
Gains to their
German investigators said they had been tracking the men since March. Once the suspects had put the online marketplace into sleep mode and transferred their gains to their own accounts, government agents moved in.
In the US, Los Angeles prosecutors identified two drugs providers with high turnover on the Wall Street Market and arrested them. They were reported by a US official to have dealt in extremely dangerous drugs.
Searches in the US led to finds of illegal weapons and millions of dollars in cash.
The German suspects were arrested at the end of last month. Computers were seized and more than 550,000 euros (614,000 dollars) in cash found, along with Bitcoins worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. A firearm was also found at one address.
According to the investigators, Wall Street Market is no longer accessible.
Thousands of sales offers
The online marketplace recently had thousands of sales offers, details on more than 1 million customer accounts and had more than 5,000 registered sellers, Georg Ungefuk, a state prosecutors' spokesman, said.
Apart from the US and German authorities, Dutch and Europol authorities were also involved in the investigation.
German Federal Police head Holger Muench described the investigation as difficult and intensive, praising the cross-border cooperation. "It was exemplary for crime fighting in digital space," Muench said.
He called for specific legislation and clear legal provisions for operating illegal online platforms. "We have to keep pace with societal changes," he said.
The German investigations will centre on the illegal drugs aspect, with penalties ranging from anything between one year and 15 years in prison.