LONDON – A massive international attack involving 16 countries, including the United States, resulted in the capture of more than 800 suspects, the seizure of 8 tons of cocaine and more than $ 48 million, officials said on Tuesday.
The FBI and Australian law enforcement developed and operated an encrypted device company, called ANOM, which was later used to gain access to organized crime networks in more than 100 countries, according to Europol, the agency’s agency. application of European Union law.
“Operation Trojan Shield is a shining example of what can be accomplished when law enforcement partners around the world work together and develop cutting-edge investigative tools to detect, disrupt and dismantle criminal organizations. transnationals, ”Calvin Shivers, deputy director of the FBI’s Criminal Investigation Division, said at a press conference in The Hague, Netherlands.
ANOM users believed the devices were secure, according to Jannine van den Berg of the Dutch National Police at the press conference. Access to communications from people involved in criminal networks allowed law enforcement to read encrypted messages for 18 months.
In addition to cocaine, the operation recovered 22 tons of marijuana, 2 tons of methamphetamines and amphetamines and 250 firearms, US authorities said.
“The global implications of this investigation are staggering,” Acting US District Attorney for the Southern District of California Randy Grossman told reporters in San Diego.
Users of the platform communicated in 45 languages on trafficking and drugs, weapons and explosives, armed robberies, contract killings and more, said van der Berg.
“I think what surprised us … was how open they were to planning,” FBI Special Agent Suzanne Turner told reporters in San Diego. “It was exactly which car was coming to which place. Maybe ships or ships. They were very explicit in their details because they thought it was secure communications.”
Almost three years ago, Australian Federal Police began developing the technology that allowed law enforcement to access and read messages sent on a platform secretly operated by the FBI, the commander said. from Australian Federal Police Jennifer Hurst.
“The captured data provided AFP with unique evidence and insight into how organized crime works in Australia and around the world – how they move drugs, money, guns and organize murders.” , she said.
In addition to the arrests and seizures of drugs, weapons and money, Shields said the operation has mitigated more than 100 threats to life. Access to their networks also allowed law enforcement to see photographs of hundreds of tons of cocaine concealed in shipments of fruit and canned goods.
Authorities said they pulled the trigger on the mass arrests because criminal enterprises had reached critical mass.
“It was the perfect time to pull it off,” Turner said. “We decided, based on the number of crimes happening, the threats to life, that it was time to get these criminals off the streets.”
The scale of cooperation between so many different countries made the operation remarkable, according to Keith Ditcham, senior organized crime and police researcher at London-based think tank RUSI.
“I wouldn’t say it’s unheard of, but it’s rare,” he said. “To be able to mount an operation where all these differences and nuances in law and in intelligence gathering require significant coordination and a lot of effort on the part of the authorities to ensure that information is not disclosed.”
The fallout from the operation and exactly how it will affect organized crime groups in the future remains to be seen, he said.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison told a press conference on Tuesday that the operation “has dealt a blow to organized crime – not just in this country, but which will echo organized crime around the world”.