The global operation not only paved the way for authorities to seize €900 million but also resulted in arresting 6,558 people worldwide.
In July 2020, Europol, with the assistance of other law enforcement agencies, took down EncroChat, the infamous European encrypted communication provider. Now, the agency has shared more details on the successful operation.
Europol announced on Tuesday that the operation has resulted in a staggering 6,558 arrests worldwide and the seizure of €900 million in illicit criminal proceeds.
Following the closure of EncroChat, French and Dutch authorities initiated a joint investigation that intercepted and analyzed over 115 million conversations carried out by approximately 60,000 users on the platform. Now, almost three years later, the valuable information obtained from this extensive digital correspondence has yielded remarkable results.
The operation has led to the arrest of 6,558 suspects, including 197 high-value targets, dealing a significant blow to organized crime networks. Convicted criminals involved in these illicit activities are facing a total of 7,134 years of imprisonment.
Furthermore, authorities have successfully confiscated €739.7 million in cash, while freezing an additional €154.1 million in assets and bank accounts linked to criminal enterprises.
The impact of this operation goes beyond financial repercussions. Law enforcement agencies have managed to seize a staggering amount of illicit substances, including 30.5 million pills of chemical drugs, 103.5 tonnes of cocaine, 163.4 tonnes of cannabis, and 3.3 tonnes of heroin. Additionally, the operation resulted in the seizure of 971 vehicles, 83 boats, and 40 planes, which were being used to facilitate criminal activities.
According to Europol’s press release, authorities have also taken possession of 271 estates or homes used by criminals as hideouts or operational bases. Furthermore, the operation led to the confiscation of 923 weapons, including firearms, along with 21,750 rounds of ammunition and 68 explosives, significantly reducing the potential threat posed by these criminal organizations.
EncroChat, the encrypted phone network that was dismantled, had become a haven for organized crime groups involved in drug trafficking, money laundering, extortion, and even acts of violence, including murders.
Europol previously stated that user activity on the platform was particularly concentrated in countries known as source and destination points for the cocaine and cannabis trade, as well as in prominent money laundering hubs.
The mobile devices provided by EncroChat were marketed as offering “perfect anonymity” to users, with features like automatic message deletion and remote erasure options. The phones were sold for approximately €1,000 each on the international market, with subscription plans offering worldwide coverage for €1,500 over six months, complete with 24/7 customer support.
Unbeknownst to the users, French and Dutch law enforcement agencies infiltrated the platform in early 2020, gaining invaluable insights into criminal groups and their modus operandi. The company’s servers, located in France, were subsequently taken down, effectively dismantling the criminal infrastructure.
This successful operation against EncroChat follows the dismantling of another encrypted communication service, Sky ECC, in March 2021. Furthermore, in June 2021, officials from the United States and Australia disclosed their involvement in running a covert encrypted chat service called ANoM (also known as AN0M) for nearly three years.
This operation intercepted 27 million messages exchanged between criminal gang members across the globe, further undermining the activities of these networks.
Press Conference on Encrochat
The crackdown on encrypted communication services demonstrates the determination of law enforcement agencies to disrupt criminal enterprises and safeguard communities from the damaging effects of organized crime. Europol, in collaboration with international partners, remains committed to tackling cybercriminals and ensuring a safer future for all.
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