An “earthquake” for the organized crime: the judicial and police authorities france and the netherlands announced Thursday, after having infiltrated, the dismantling of a global network of encrypted communications, called EncroChat, used almost exclusively by criminal groups.
Drug trafficking, murders, money laundering, extortion, kidnapping… This joint operation has led to “numerous arrests” in several european countries and prevented that are perpetrated many criminal acts, they explained at a press conference in The Hague (the netherlands), at the headquarters of Eurojust, a body of judicial cooperation between european countries.
“It is as if we were at the table of discussion criminals, live “, a summary of Janine van den Berg, head of the Dutch police, and ” this is what makes the survey unique.” “We have used the fact that criminals are trusted blindly to the crypto-communication and speak freely,” she said his colleague Andy Kraag, comparing this information to ” a gold mine, providing us with evidence that we would cost of years in normal times “.
The prosecutor of Lille, Carole Etienne, the deputy director of the judicial police of the national Gendarmerie, the French Jean-Philippe Lecouffe and the attorney-general Dutch John Lucas participated at this conference.
The joint investigation franco-Dutch, under the aegis of Eurojust, entered in 2019 by France and with the support of Europol, the european agency for the criminal police, has led in recent months to intercept and decipher in real time, without their knowledge, ” more than 100 million messages exchanged via EncroChat between criminals across the world.
This intrusion of large-scale came to an end on 13 June, when the network is realized, according to a message “alert” sent to all its customers, that it had been “infiltrated illegally” by “governmental entities” and was then advised to get rid of “immediately” of their phones. But it was ” too late for them “, because “we had already had access to millions of messages,” said Mr. Kraag.
“Leaks” within the forces of law and order ?
According to the authorities, almost all customers EncroChat (” 90% to 100% “) are linked to organized crime. Some 50 000 of these phones were in circulation in 2020.
From 2017, the use of these phones encrypted by criminals has been detected in France during operations conducted against the crime organized by the Institute of criminal research of the Gendarmerie nationale, who has since worked on the operation of these encrypted communications.
The survey was conducted from 2018 by the public prosecutor of the Court interregional specialized (Jirs) of Lille because of the location of servers, ensuring the operation of EncroChat on the territory of its jurisdiction.
A judicial information was opened on the 28th of may last.
If France does not wish for the time to communicate on the detail of ongoing operations, the Dutch authorities ensure that the infiltration of EncroChat has prevented the commission of ” tens of violent crime “, among which kidnappings, murders and shootings.
“It is shocking to see with what ease and without the slightest scruple this type of serious criminal acts are being discussed and planned” on EncroChat, insist they. Before applauding: “this operation advanced and coordinated at the international level has the same effect as an earthquake to the organized crime “.
Only for the netherlands, the investigation led to the arrest of “more than 100 suspects,” the seizure of “more than 8,000 kilograms of cocaine and 1.2 tons of methamphetamine crystals, “the dismantling” of 19 laboratories of synthetic drugs “, the seizure of ” dozens of weapons to automatic fire “, of ” luxury watches “, “25 cars, some with secret compartments” as well as ” close to 25 million euros in cash “.
But the investigations, the results of which will be further exploited ” for years “, also revealed ” clues of leakage at the level of police services “, which are taken ” extremely seriously “, said Ms van den Berg. They have demonstrated ” clearly, the role of corruption throughout the chain of illicit trafficking “, reinforced Wil van Gemert, deputy director operations at Europol.