Alphabay and Hansa darknet markets shut down after worldwide police operation

Media playback is unsupported on your device                  Media caption Technology explained What is the dark web

Media playback is unsupported on your device Media caption Technology explained What is the dark web

At a Thursday news conference, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Europol announced that they've jointly seized the world's two biggest darknet - or dark web - marketplaces, AlphaBay and Hansa, which were collectively responsible for more than 10 times the volume of sales as the notorius Silk Road marketplace.

Sessions explained the site, known as AlphaBay, featured hundreds of vendors selling opiates such as fentanyl and heroin.

According to Europol, the marketplaces, considered the successors to the infamous Silk Road, facilitated the criminal economy in trading over 350,000 illicit goods including drugs, firearms, toxic chemicals and cybercrime malware.

The operations to seize AlphaBay's infrastructure was led by the US with cooperation from six other countries and the European law enforcement agency Europol.

Merchants of contraband hide out on the dark web, a hidden part of the internet that you can only access through special browsers like Tor.

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Police say the winding up of Hansa Market is the final step in an undercover operation which began when Dutch police seized control of the illegal market place on June 20 after two of the site's administrator were arrested in Germany.

The Justice Department separately announced Thursday that it shut down AlphaBay this month as the result of a previously undisclosed law enforcement operation aimed on eradicating dark web marketplaces.

AlphaBay ran like a normal online shopping site, allowing users to create login names and passwords and to search by category or name. The action permitted surveillance of criminal activities on the marketplace before it was shut down in July.

According to Europol's "conservative estimation", around £1 billion (£770 million) worth of transactions have been process through the marketplace since its creation in 2014, all paid in crypto-currencies such as Bitcoin.

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Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe said AlphaBay was "10 times the size of Silk Road", one of the original dark web markets to gain public attention.

"Make no mistake, the forces of law and justice face a new challenge from the criminals and transnational criminal organizations who think they can commit their crimes with impunity by 'going dark, '" said Sessions. "You can not hide. We will find you". "We will find and prosecute drug traffickers who set up shop there, and this case is a great example of our commitment to doing exactly that".

Police in Thailand also seized millions of dollars in assets, three properties and four Lamborghini cars.

Prosecutors said AlphaBay didn't disguise the fact that its activities violated many laws.

"The dark web is growing into a haven of rampant criminality", warned Dimitris Avramopoulos, European Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship.

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Attorney General Jeff Sessions says this take-down shows the world that criminals can not use the dark web to hide any more. "There are more of these operations to come", he added.

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