French Customs Accuses Young Mother of Running the “Black Hand” Forum

In a recent statement to the press from a French law enforcement officer, a piece of information about the administrator of the recently seized “Black Hand” forum took the media by surprise. Unlike the deceased administrator of Alphabay, the owners of Hansa, or the ranking Silk Road owners and administrators, the administrator of the Black Hand forum was, behind her numerous internet facades, a 28-year-old mother without a criminal record. The officer also revealed information about the forum’s payment system and details about the operation that had been left out of the original press release.

According to the police officer, “an active woman at this level is quite original.” The officer, too, realized that the Black Hand may have been the first of its kind. Concerning the administration, at least. The forum itself, other than the membership requirements and relatively small community, functioned no differently than any other darknet market or forum. For more than two years, the Black Hand forum allowed vendors to sell drugs, weapons, fake identity documents, and software or data used by fraudsters. After another member of a forum vouched for someone who wanted to join the forum, the person could sign up and then purchase whatever they wanted from the vendors. Payments were made with cryptocurrencies. Unsurprisingly, the forum worked no differently than if a man had been operating it instead of a mother with two children.

The operation was “the first of its kind in France,” the Minister of Public Accounts, Gérald Darmanin, told the press.

The woman, known on the forum as “Anouchka” or “Hades,” only (allegedly) functioned as the forum administrator, the officer reported. Although she headed the forum at the time of the forum’s seizure, another entity had created the forum and later handed the forum over to Anouchka. Investigators discovered evidence that Anouchka used darknet markets or forums prior to the Black Hand forum. She may have even staffed other darknet sites prior to the Black Hand.

Anouchka earned “several tens of thousands of euros per year” as the administrator of the Black Hand forum. She received between 25 and 50 euros (in cryptocurrency) every time a new user registered on the forum. She also used this money to pay her staff. Anouchka also received between 2-5 percent of the money spent on every transaction facilitated by the site. Additionally, site members could effectively pay for what the police officer referred to as “good SEO.”

He also revealed that, out of the four arrest made by the Directorate National Intelligence and Customs Inquiry (DNRED), only one suspect had a non-leadership role on the site. The authorities arrested Anouchka and two of her staff members. And due to the precise timing of the raids, the police managed to seize the forum servers and obtain complete access to the forum’s database.

The officer closed, saying, “we see the reactions and the concern on the darknet forums: they react, they worry, and they are right to worry. That’s what we wanted.” He referenced the usual frenzy that follows a darknet market takedown or seizure.