An online forum named "crimenetwork" has been targeted by police and prosecutors in 14 German states. They accuse 11 suspects of enabling sales of stolen goods, data, narcotics and weapons, and computer fraud.
Germany's federal BKA criminal investigation bureau, roughly the equivalent of the FBI, said on Wednesday that some 120 homes and premises had been searched by more than 1,000 officials on the previous evening in all but two of Germany's 16 states.
The investigations focused on an online community - now shut down by authorities - under the transparently-named URL crimenetwork.biz.
A wide range of items had been found and were now being examined, said the BKA, adding that the raids had been preceded by laborious cyber investigations.
A new team made up of cyber-specialists from regional German police forces as well as the BKA and based at the federal agency's headquarters in Wiesbaden had spent four months probing more than a million postings and private messages of more than 260 users.
Eleven "administrators" of the now defunct "crimenetwork.biz" were identified among 153 suspects and faced charges of forming a criminal organization, said the BKA.
Other "crimenetwork" users were being investigated on a wide range of charges, including illegal trade in narcotics, computer fraud and money laundering.
Arrests in Saarland
The news agency AFP reported that two suspects were arrested in Germany's western state of Saarland.
One of them, a 20-year-old from Saarlouis was accused of computer fraud in 452 cases. The other, a 33-year-old from Saarbrücken was suspected of selling sexual potency substances in currently unknown quantities in 259 cases.
Origins in 2006
In May last year, the German computer online service "Heise.de" reported that crimenetwork had become the "largest German-language underground forum."
It had probably started in 2006 and shortly before its online disappearance last year it had some 8,000 active users and 84,000 registered users.
"Heise.de" said online forum administrators acted as intermediaries between sellers and buyers, retaining between three and 15 percent of the purchase price for themselves.
Trading was typically done using electronic Bitcoins, it said.
ipj/msh (dpa, AFP)