Feds infiltrate darknet
Two prominent digital drug marketplaces knocked out in one-two punch
PARIS» Two of the world’s most notorious “darknet” marketplaces have been knocked out in an operation officials say yielded a trove of new intelligence about drugs and weapons merchants that operate from hidden corners of the internet.
AlphaBay, previously the internet’s largest darknet site, went offline July 5 and was widely assumed to have been taken out by authorities. But on Thursday, European law enforcement revealed that a second darknet site known as Hansa also had been in police hands for the past month, an announcement deliberately designed to sow panic among tech-savvy dealers and buyers.
“This is the largest darknet marketplace takedown in history,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions told reporters in Washington, according to a prepared version of his statement. He accused online vendors of “pouring fuel on the fire of the national drug epidemic”
and warned that “the darknet is not a place to hide.”
The darknet, a part of the internet accessible only through specialized anonymity-providing tools, is an attractive place for sales of drugs, weapons and other illegal merchandise. Merchants and buyers can operate with relative openness while still keeping their identities secret.
A California indictment named AlphaBay’s founder as Canadian Alexandre Cazes, saying the 25-year-old had amassed a fortune of $23 million, including a small fortune in digital currency. The indictment said he spent the money on real estate, luxury cars and the pursuit of “economic citizenship” in Liechtenstein, Thailand and Cyprus.
Cazes died in police custody just over a week ago, according to Thai police. The chief of Thailand’s narcotics police told reporters that Cazes hanged himself in jail just prior to a scheduled court hearing.
The law enforcement operation was aimed at gathering as many new leads as possible and maximizing confusion within the darknet
Publicly assailed by Trump, Sessions says he’s staying on • WASHINGTON»
Attorney General Jeff Sessions, publicly skewered by his boss for stepping clear of the Russia-Trump investigations, declared Thursday he still loves his job and plans to stay on. Yet Donald Trump’s airing of his long-simmering frustrations with Sessions raised significant new questions about the future of the nation’s top prosecutor.
The White House was quick to insist that the president “has confidence” in Sessions. However, the episode underscored how the attorney general’s crime-fighting agenda is being overshadowed by his fractured relationship with Trump and the continuing investigations into allegations of Russian ties to the Republican candidate’s presidential campaign.
The challenges for Sessions were laid bare Thursday when the attorney general, at a Justice Department news conference to announce the takedown of a mammoth internet drug marketplace, faced zero questions about that case and was instead grilled on his reaction to being excoriated by Trump in a New York Times interview a day earlier. The news conference on the drug case was quickly ended once it was clear reporters would ask only about the interview. — The Associated Press drug-buying community, according to Dutch cybercrime prosecutor Martijn Egberts.
Egberts told The Associated Press that investigators had taken control of the Hansa market and impersonated the administrators for the past month. Drug sales continued as usual as investigators logged each transaction and sent shipment details to local police forces in the relevant area. Over the course of the entire operation, he said that Dutch police were able to scoop up some 10,000 addresses for Hansa buyers outside the Netherlands.