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14 Dec, 2021 02:47

Operators of notorious dark web service jailed

Operators of notorious dark web service jailed

A German court has jailed the team behind the CyberBunker darknet service provider that operated from a Cold War-era NATO bunker, finding them guilty of aiding nearly 250,000 illegal transactions, mostly linked to the drug trade.

The court found eight defendants guilty of enabling the illicit transactions, a vast part of which was related to the drug trade. The now-defunct web-hosting service is said to have also been involved in illicit dealings linked to child abuse, contract killings, and money laundering.

The sentences were handed out by a regional court in the western German city of Trier on Monday. 

Only one of the defendants received a one-year suspended sentence, while others got real jail terms. The longest sentence of five years and six months was handed to the main defendant, a 62-year-old Dutch national, while his son will have to serve four years and three months in jail.

While the defendants’ identities were not disclosed in accordance with German law, the jailed ‘ringleader’ is apparently Herman Johan Verwoert-Derksen. The Dutch national had operated the CyberBunker darknet hosting from the late 1990s before it was raided by police several years ago. The service provider touted itself as the one that hosts "services to any website except child pornography and anything related to terrorism."

While the CyberBunker initially hosted almost exclusively adult websites, its clientele grew over the years. The organization is believed to have hosted the infamous torrent tracker Pirate Bay, some mirrors of WikiLeaks, as well as the “Wall Street Market” and “Fraudsters” – major, currently defunct darknet marketplaces. 

The group originally operated from a defunct Cold War-era bunker in the Netherlands, but was ultimately forced to move to Germany – buying an old bunker there as well. 

The former NATO fortification, located in the German village of Traben-Trarbach, was raided by a massive force of some 600 police officers back in 2019, with the operation putting the CyberBunker, as well as some of its darknet clients, out of business.