Europol held a press conference on Tuesday to praise the successes of Operation Trojan Shield that saw law enforcement agencies around the world work together to uncover organized criminal activities.
Jean-Philippe Lecouffe, deputy executive director of Europol said “this law enforcement operation is exceptional by its global outcomes.”
The agencies involved “carried out one of the largest, and most sophisticated law enforcement operations to date in the fight against encrypted criminal activities,” he added.
Assistant Director of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division Calvin Shivers also spoke at the press conference, saying that “the success of Operation Trojan Shield is the result of tremendous innovation, dedication and unprecedented international collaboration.”
He added that the operation also resulted in the seizure of over “six tons of cocaine, five tons of marijuana or hashish, two tons of methamphetamine, and over $148 million in currency.”
A written Europol statement said that further results were expected as “countless spin-off operations will be carried out in the weeks to come.”
Who was involved in the operation?
Some 16 countries were involved in the operation that was headed by the FBI and Europol along with Dutch and Swedish police. Over 18 months, they had access to more than 27 million messages sent over the “ANoM” app. As a result of the cooperative efforts, police were able to make more than 800 arrests and search 700 locations.
Earlier in the day, police in Australia and New Zealand unveiled their involvement in the operation that resulted in the arrests of hundreds of organized crime suspects through access to an “encrypted” communications platform.
What about Germany?
German prosecutors in Frankfurt said Tuesday that police had arrested more than 70 suspects and searched over 150 locations in Germany as part of the global crackdown.
The raids were focused on the western state of Hesse and were carried out in cooperation with Europol, according to the Frankfurt public prosecutor. Security forces also made arrests in the city of Wiesbaden, the state capital of Hesse, police said
Other raids around Germany were carried out at apartments, warehouses and business premises.
Raids also took place in the western city of Essen on Monday
On Monday, Steve Alter, a German Interior Ministry spokesman confirmed there were “criminal procedural measures in Germany but also in other countries around the world against people who are suspected of involvement in organized crime.” At the time, Alter stopped short of directly linking the measures to Operation Trojan Shield.
Last year, European police cracked an encrypted communications network, known as EncroChat, used by criminal gangs across the continent.
Belgium arrested dozens of suspects earlier this year after police cracked Sky ECC, another encrypted chat system. Authorities then seized over 17 tons of cocaine.
What did Australia and New Zealand reveal?
By virtue of time zones, Australia and New Zealand were the first to issue more complete information on Tuesday. Police said investigators had access to the supposedly secure “ANoM” platform for years.
“The encrypted communications — which allegedly included plots to kill, mass drug trafficking and gun distribution — were decrypted from a platform covertly run by the FBI,” the Australian Federal Police (AFP) said. The platform was then spread by word of mouth on an invitation-only basis in organized crime circles.
Australian police arrested 224 people, who were now facing more than 526 charges. It also shut down six underground drug labs and seized firearms and dozens of millions of dollars in cash.
“We allege they are members of outlaw motorcycle gangs, Australian mafia, Asian crime syndicates and serious and organized crime groups,” federal police commissioner Reece Kershaw said. “We allege they’ve been trafficking illicit drugs into Australia at an industrial scale.”
The operation “has struck a heavy blow against organized crime — not just in this country, but one that will echo around organized crime around the world,” Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.
Australian police also believed the operation had helped prevent an organized crime-related murder plot targeting a family of five.
New Zealand police described the operation as the “world’s most sophisticated law enforcement action against organized crime to date.”
Security forces seized methamphetamine, firearms, and millions of dollars in cash and assets during the operation.
Detective Superintendent Greg Williams said 35 people were arrested in New Zealand on 900 “serious drug dealing, money laundering and other conspiracy-type charges” and were due to appear in court Tuesday.
Australia said Interpol and the FBI would hold news conferences later on Tuesday.
ab,fb/msh,wmr (Reuters, AFP, AP, dpa, LUSA)