Darknet bunker plot thickens: ties to right-wing dissidents and WikiLeaks

The German Public Prosecution Service confirmed that a bunker functioning as an illegal cyber center had ties to a right-wing dissident movement and possibly to WikiLeaks. These revelations came to light when the main suspect – Herman Johan Verwoert-Derksen (60), also known as ‘Johan X.’ – reacted to his criminal case for the first time.

According to German media, the employees of the cyber center saw the hosting of servers for dissident groups as a lucrative endeavor. One group is specifically mentioned: Generation Identity. That right-wing movement has chapters in several European countries, such as France, Germany, Austria, and the United Kingdom.

Through encrypted messages, an employee of the bunker communicated with a member of Generation Identity. For just thirty euros a month, the cyber bunker would host a cloud server for the group. A very competitive price because other tenants paid hundreds of euros a month for the same service. That may indicate that the employees of the bunker had some degree of sympathy for the ideology of Generation Identity.

The cyber bunker offered a host of IT services, without requiring contracts or personal details. Furthermore, the bunker hosted many websites on the dark web involved in the distribution of drugs, weapons, and even child pornography. The center was also connected to dark web markets such as Wall Street Market, Cannabis Road, and Flugsvamp 2.0. Moreover, massive cyber attacks were conducted from the bunker, sometimes targeting a million routers at the same time.

In 2013, Johan X. – the head of the organization – bought the former NATO bunker located in Traben-Trarbach, a town in Western Germany. In secret, he converted the former bunker into an underground data center. In addition to the main suspect, the police arrested twelve other men, all German and Dutch nationals. They claim to provide a high degree of privacy and thus do not know illegal content was hosted on their servers.

In 2002, Johan X. was involved in a similar case, running a data center in the South West of the Netherlands. His customers were mostly legal pornographers. The police also discovered an ecstasy laboratory in the same building, although he was never convicted in that case.

Johan X. claims to be a victim of political persecution. He believes the German authorities only showed interest because his data center hosted the servers of WikiLeaks. The public prosecutor denies those allegations, stating that investigators did not found any server belonging to WikiLeaks. Furthermore, WikiLeaks is not even mentioned in the indictment.

Regardless of the outcome, (former) employees of Johan X. are already making plans for a new data center. Several countries showed interest, including Bahrain, Moldova, Zimbabwe, and Vietnam.

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