Operator Who Operated Darknet Network Center in Former NATO Bunker Sentenced by German Court

On Monday, a district court in Trier, Germany, sentenced eight people to prison terms for running a "dark web" cyber center.

The facility's servers supported online transactions involving drugs, contract killings, money laundering and child abuse images.

In November 2016, cyberattacks against more than 1 million Deutsche Telekom routers were carried out from this bunker.

The organization is accused of aiding and abetting some 249,000 transactions by criminals in servers in a former NATO bunker in Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany.

The trial of the defendants - seven men and one woman - has been going on for a year.

What did the court sentence?

The court sentenced the main defendant, a 62-year-old Dutchman, to five years and nine months in prison.

The other six defendants were sentenced to prison terms ranging from two years and four months to four years and three months, and an eighth defendant was sentenced to one year of probation.

With the verdict, the year-long trial, which the Prosecutor's Office described as one of the largest trials against cybercrime in the country to begin in October 2020, is coming to an end.

Presiding Judge Günther Köhler said the evidence showed the group operated a "bulletproof host" that claimed to provide a secure data center that was not subject to investigation by the investigating authorities. All eight defendants were guilty of forming and joining a criminal organization.

Why is the trial significant?

The verdict brings to a close one of the largest trials for cybercrime in the German context.

For the first time, the trial focused not on the perpetrators who used the dark web to sell illegal goods and services, but on those who hosted the websites that made such transactions possible.

The shutdown of the powerful underground server complex in a small tourist village on the Moselle River in Germany followed a raid in September 2019, which took place after a five-year-long investigation.

The facility was used to operate dark web sites such as "Wall Street Markets" and "Fraudster.

Illegal websites hosted at the facility also sold stolen data and forged documents and were used to conduct large-scale cyber attacks.

Hundreds of law enforcement officers, including Germany's elite federal police force GSG 9, participated in a raid on the facility in September 2019.

Police successfully broke into the 5,000-square-meter (nearly 54,000 square-foot) former NATO bunker with iron gates, which is five levels deep underground.

The building is located on a 1.3-hectare (3.2-acre) plot of land with fencing and surveillance cameras.

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