Blueprint underworld uncovered: dozens of arrests

The police have hit the underworld in the Netherlands hard with a new hack of a messaging service. It concerns Sky ECC, with which there was intensive communication about drug trafficking and other forms of serious crime.

In the hack of Sky ECC, a Canadian provider of crypto phones with 70,000 customers, 11,000 users based in the Netherlands came into the picture, Dutch investigative authorities reported on Tuesday during a hastily arranged press conference in Amsterdam.

Tuesday morning, 75 searches were carried out in homes and offices in a series of police actions in the Netherlands, in which thirty people were arrested. Among other things, 28 firearms were seized. The Sky ECC server has been seized by order of the Dutch authorities. Exactly where this happened is not (yet) disclosed due to ongoing research interests.

According to press prosecutor Ferry van Veghel, not only has a lot of information about drug trafficking been released thanks to the hack, but also preventive action has been taken in the criminal environment during that period. According to Van Veghel, dozens of planned serious violent crimes such as kidnappings, liquidations and shootings have been prevented in the Netherlands.

This was possible because during the international investigation – code name Argus – the police had read live messages for three weeks from mid-February. In addition, it has been possible to make a large number of old encrypted messages readable. It concerns a total of hundreds of millions of messages, eighty million of which are relevant to the Dutch investigative authorities.

Last year, twenty million messages about the Dutch underworld were intercepted during the hack of the Encrochat messaging service. According to Van Veghel, the Sky ECC hack has also contributed to an ongoing Belgian-Dutch investigation into large-scale cocaine smuggling.

Two weeks ago, a total of more than 23,000 kilos of cocaine with a street value of around 1.5 billion euros was intercepted in the ports of Antwerp and Hamburg.

The investigation into Sky ECC started in 2018 at the initiative of the Amsterdam criminal investigation department, according to department head Jonne Janssen. “In an investigation into a criminal group suspected of large-scale cocaine trafficking and serious violent crimes, we encountered veiled communications over Sky ECC telephones. We started investigating this further in collaboration with specialists from the Team High Tech Crime ”, says Janssen. “Ultimately, that led to the downing of the largest crypto phone provider in the world.”

Intensive cooperation

According to Jansen, intensive cooperation with foreign police forces took place during the investigation. “When we were able to read it live, Europol investigators ensured that relevant messages were shared in a legally correct manner with investigative services in other countries. That is complicated for us because every country has its own laws. ”

According to Andy Kraag, head of the National Criminal Investigation Department, the Criminal Investigation Department has made a very detailed blueprint of the underworld in the Netherlands thanks to the decrypted messages. “After last year’s hack at the Encrochat messaging service, we now have a complete picture of the supply side of the drug economy in the Netherlands. This is a hammer blow. ” Thanks to the seized information, many new arrests will follow, Kraag expects.

The news about the hack leaked through the Flemish newspaper The standard. In Belgium, 1,500 officers raided at least 200 locations across the country from 5:00 a.m. on Tuesday. Among the dozens of detainees are according to the Gazet van Antwerp two lawyers.
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