A Cold War bunker in a tiny German town housed darknet internet servers that facilitated illegal online activity. The group allegedly operating the servers are on trial — but are they in charge of 250,000 crimes?
Germany’s largest-ever cybercrime trial began this week amid much media fanfare at the district court in the city of Trier. The courtroom was packed. Defendants and their lawyers were wearing face masks and separated by plastic screens.
On the first day the judge took two hours to see out the charges. On the next, three of the eight defendants were given the opportunity to tell their life stories.
The eight people — four Dutch, three German and one Bulgarian — worked at the Cyberbunker data center at a disused military bunker in the pretty village of Traben-Trarbach, northwest of Trier.
They’re now faced with aiding and abetting criminals in certain 249,000 illegal online transactions involving drugs, contract killings, money laundering and images of child abuse worth countless euros.
In September 2019, a significant police operation that had been in the works for half ten years raided the bunker and closed it down. Key members of the group were arrested.
The alleged ringleader of the operation, 60-year-old Dutchman Johan X.*, remained impassive and silent through the first days of questioning, darkode reborn playing the testimony of the initial three defendants.
Dutchman Michiel R.* who worked as a “manager” at the bunker, summed up his checkered job history and gave a tearful description of his close relationship with his mother. Jaqueline B.*, a German who acted as a “bookkeeper” for the operation, spoke of her childhood in Cameroon growing up because the daughter of a poor farmer. A 21-year old German IT expert who spent per year working in tech support team described his solitary life and history of depression.