Russian officials on Friday arrested the alleged co-founder of the world’s largest darknet bazaar – Hydra – a week after authorities in Germany and the United States shut down the platform.
According to local media sources, the individual is identified as Dmitry Pavlov, the administrator of the recently shut down darknet market. Pavlov is under investigation in Russia for an alleged large-scale sale of illegal drugs.
German authorities announced earlier this month that they had taken over Hydra’s German servers and confiscated $25 million in bitcoin holdings. The US Department of Justice accused Pavlov, 30, of being the administrator of Hydra’s servers.
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Hydra: the severed head
Hydra had an estimated annual revenue of $1.35 billion, according to the Central Cybercrime Office (ZIT) and Germany’s Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA), making it the largest largest darknet market in the world before the raid.
Pavlov said he was unaware of the charges and maintained his innocence. If found guilty, he faces a sentence of 15 to 20 years in prison.
Pavlov said last week in an interview with the BBC Russian Service:
“As a hosting company, we hold all the required communication licenses. We do not operate any websites, but rather act as intermediaries by renting servers.
The DOJ filed criminal charges against Pavlov on April 5 for conspiracy to distribute narcotics and money laundering.
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Russian Links to Crypto Criminals
The United States has accused Russia of colluding with crypto-related criminal organizations, including darknet markets and ransomware authors.
In September, the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) sanctioned Suex, a Russian-based cryptocurrency broker suspected of receiving more than $20 million through darknet markets such as Hydra.
Hydra served as a central market for criminals to sell illicit drugs and money laundering services, most of which were based in Russia.
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Before the crisis, it had about 17 million users and 19,000 registered seller accounts. Since its inception in 2015, investigators believe Hydra has traded over $5 billion in cryptocurrencies.
While the capture and closure of the Russian-speaking Hydra should be applauded, the excitement should be tempered by the knowledge that, like the Hydra of ancient mythology, new “heads” will sprout to take its place.
Featured image from WallpaperAccess, chart from TradingView.com