International op involving FBI encryption network leads to 49 arrests in NL
A worldwide investigation into crime networks which used an encrypted communications network set up by the FBI has resulted in over 800 arrests worldwide, including 49 in the Netherlands.
The investigation, led by US, Swedish and Dutch officials, was based around a communication service called ANOM, which grew to service 12,000 encrypted devices used by 300 criminal syndicates in more than 100 countries, Europol said on Tuesday.
In the Netherlands itself, the investigation led Dutch police to identify 25 drugs labs and storage places. Eight guns and €2.3 million in cash were also seized in a string of raids across the country over the past few days, regional police chief Jannine van den Berg told a Europol press conference.
In all, the information uncovered by the investigation helped prevent many serious crimes and is an ‘unprecedented blow to criminal networks worldwide,’ Van den Berg said.
Dutch law enforcement officials, she said, had a major role in the investigation because of their expertise in high level digital and technical research.
ANOM was set up by the FBI and Australian police and was able to fill the void left when encryption services EncroChat and Sky ECC were closed down in earlier international investigations.
FBI chief Calvin Shivers was unwilling to say much about how the sting was put in place or how undercover agents reached their targets. ‘Word spreads,’ he said.
Turn the tables
‘We were able to turn the tables and access the communications of criminal organisations which operate worldwide,’ Shivers said. This meant officials could watch live as tonnes of cocaine were moved around or hidden among shipments of fruit, he told reporters.
So far officials have made more than 800 arrests, seized eight tonnes of cocaine and 22 tonnes of cannabis resin, confiscated €48m in cash and crypto currencies and 250 firearms.
More arrests will take place in the coming days and weeks. ‘Operation Trojan Shield/Greenlight will enable Europol to further enhance the intelligence picture on organised crime affecting the EU … and will support the continued effort in identifying operating high-value criminal targets on a global scale,’ Europol said.
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