Police in sixteen countries have been able to intercept the communications of top criminals for months in a unique operation. The criminals thought they had unbreakable crypto telephones in their hands. In reality, the telephones came from the police, who could listen in on everything.
In many countries it rained in the night from Sunday to Monday, including in the Netherlands. Although a press conference in The Hague will not be held until tomorrow morning about the enormous police operation, it was already clear last night that the international drug trade has been dealt a huge blow.
The investigation does not only break up drug gangs, but the operation also exposes corruption within the Netherlands, says a source close to the investigation. “Many drug gangs will be nervous and have trouble sleeping,” said Swedish Interior Minister Mikael Damberg. A well-known drug lord has been arrested in Sweden. More than 100 searches have also been carried out in North Rhine-Westphalia and other German regions.
In a major undercover operation, the police have managed to sell crypto telephones to criminals, German media reported. The phones would be unbreakable. In reality, the police could listen in on the conversations for months. Criminals even called with voice distortion, but that too could disable the police remotely.
No fewer than sixteen countries participated in the police operation, which is therefore called unique. According to Europol, this includes Sweden, Australia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Canada, Lithuania, Norway, New Zealand, Scotland, the United Kingdom, Germany, Hungary, the United States and Austria.
It is another hard blow for organized crime. Previously, the Dutch providers Ennetcom, PGP Safe, Encrochat and Sky were already pulled down by international police collaborations. Due to the millions of messages that were cracked via Ennetcom’s servers in 2016, many criminals have been successfully prosecuted by the judicial authorities.
Just last week, Richard R., alias Rico de Chilean, was sentenced to 11 years in prison. The immense Marengo liquidation case against Ridouan Taghi’s gang is also largely built on evidence coming from the servers of these crypto networks.
Last year it turned out that the police at Encrochat were able to read live messages that criminals sent each other for three months. It led to hundreds of arrests and record seizures of cocaine. Sky followed a few months ago, after which the Dutch police again crowed. “As a result, no criminal is left out of the picture,” said detective chief Andy Kraag at the time.
Pressure on investigation is growing
Due to the cracking of yet another new network, the pressure on the criminal investigation department continues to grow. By successfully taking down Encrochat and Sky, the detectives already have more cases than they can handle. “It’s a great piece of work, but the work is already running through Sky and Encrochat over the shoes,” said an investigative source.