Local French police have shut down one of the largest Darknet marketplaces in all of France. The French dark web forum “Black Hand,” open for more than two years, offered illegal drugs, weapons, passports and other fake IDs, images and videos of child pornography, and stolen bank records.
The main administrator of the site and several other people were arrested in Lille, Marseille (specifically at Bouche du Rhône) and Montpellier. The search warrant also led to the discovery of computer equipment and several falsified identity documents. While trial and arraignments await the arrestees, the investigation concluded last week. The National Directorate of Intelligence and Custom Investigations (DNRED) dedicated several months and money into fighting this illegal enterprise. Nearly 4,000 euros in cash and 25,000 euros in bitcoin were also seized.
The investigators were also able to access the contents of the “Black Hand” server. The first technical investigations found traces on the computer servers of over 200,000 messages. More than 3,000 people had registered accounts. There was never a doubt of the active nature of this French Darknet Marketplace. It was up and running strong, 24 hours a day.
At the end of the custom’s detention, the arrested suspects were handed over to the investigators of the sub-directorate for the fight against cybercrime of the Central Directorate of Judicial Police (DCPJ). While spending an additional 48 hours in mandatory police custody, the suspects now await arraignment and trial. One woman, 35-years-old, is one of the four suspects. The other three men are ages 20-45.
The court filing the charges will be held under the esteemed Magistrates of the Specialized Interrogational Jurisdiction (JIRS) of Lille (North).
“I cannot discuss more than is made public by my court, but these suspects are being accused of adminstering and monitoring the entire website and services,” said one of the ministering judges.
According to another report, the suspects were ridiculed for their inexperince in getting caught. “They are unemployed and none of them do much other than this activity,” the report source said. “The administrator lived in the Lille area and did not really have any competence in computers and did not have a permanent job. Not all members of the team knew each other personally, some not even have ever met in person.”
The public prosecutor’s office in Lille said in a statement that the indictment charges will be for “criminal conspiracy and putting into circulation counterfeit or falsified currency in France.” Each suspect could serve a minimum of 5-10 years in prison for these charges, and with the drug and guns charges, can be locked away for even longer.
“I congratulate the DNRED agents for this extraordinary operation,” Gérald Darmanin said. “The darknet is not a place to hide and this is likely one of the most important criminal investigations of the year.”
Taking down the largest darknet marketplace in France involved mobilizing more than 40 DNRED agents, as well as, customs officers.
The case is just another example that Federal authorities all over the world are successfully experiencing in shutting down darknet markets and other illegal forums. It all started many years ago with the Silk Road shut down, but last year we witnessed the gauntlet drop on the two largest darknet marketplaces, “AlphaBay” and “Hansa” on the dark web. Hundreds of thousands of users have since suffered since these shutdowns and police arrests and convictions only continue to increase each month.
The French Law Enforcement Agencies have entrusted further investigation of the case to the Central Office of the fight against crime to the Central Office of the fight against crime related to information and communication technologies (OCLCTIC).