German, U.S. authorities shut Russian darknet giant Hydra for executing $5.2B in illegal crypto transactions

Key Takeaways:

  • Authorities in the US and Germany have shut Hydra, the largest darknet marketplace
  • According to reports, Hydra facilitated $5.4 billion in illegal crypto transactions
  • The U.S. Treasury also sanctioned Estonia-based crypto exchange Garantex
Authorities in the US and Germany have worked together to shut Hydra, the largest darknet marketplace with $5.4 billion in crypto transactions.
Credit: IStock

YEREVAN ( – The German law enforcement authorities, in collaborated efforts with their counterparts in the United States (US), have cracked down on Hydra, the largest darknet marketplace. 

According to reports, Hydra served as a platform for several illegal activities. People used it to trade narcotics, launder money, and pay for various illicit services. Along with the said unlawful activities, the platform also facilitated about $5.2 billion in illegal crypto transactions. The U.S. Department of Justice confirmed the news in an official press release.

“The Department of Justice will not allow darknet markets and cryptocurrency to be a safe haven for money laundering and the sale of hacking tools and services,” 

Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco said regarding the development. 

In addition, the German Federal Criminal Police seized cryptocurrency wallets containing $25 million in Bitcoin (BTC) from Hydra.

Secretary of State Anthony Blinken noted that the U.S. has also moved to sanction Hydra. In addition, the U.S. Treasury has announced a similar action against Estonia-based crypto exchange Garantex for its alleged role in facilitating illegal crypto transactions. 

U.S. authorities also announced criminal charges against Dmitry Olegovich Pavlov, a 30-year old Russian resident, for conspiracy to distribute narcotics and conspiracy to commit money laundering. Pavlov also allegedly operated and administered the servers used to run Hydra.

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Are Russians relying on crypto amind rising sanctions? 

Besides being the largest darknet marketplace, Hydra is also the oldest in the space.

The latest crackdown comes amid increasing sanctions against Russia at the backdrop of its invasion of Ukraine. The United States and its European partners have levied strict penalties against Russian oligarchs and their companies. As a result, Russians seem to be relying on cryptocurrencies and the dark web to evade the penalties. 

In 2021, Hydra accounted for an estimated 80% of all darknet market-related cryptocurrency transactions. It comes as no surprise that it would sooner or later catch the attention of law enforcement authorities. 

“The successful seizure of Hydra….dismantled digital infrastructures which had enabled a wide range of criminals – including Russian cyber criminals, the cryptocurrency tumblers…,” 

 FBI Director Christopher Wray said.

According to Jim Lee, the Chief of Internal Revenue Services (IRS) Criminal Investigation, their Cyber Crimes Unit used its cryptocurrency tracking expertise to help take down this site and identify the criminal behind it. 

Confirming the news on their part, German officials said Hydra housed over 19,000 vendors and about 17 million registered buyers who used cryptocurrencies to trade on the platform. The Office of Foreign Assets Control investigation also published a list of over 100 crypto addresses used for illegal transactions.

Fighting the darknet is an uphill task. With Hydra now taken down, it is only a matter of time before it gets replaced by one of the other players. Unfortunately, such activities add fuel to the flames set by anti-crypto brigades across the globe. 

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