Authorities say hundreds of members of a criminal gang around the world have been tricked into using an FBI-run phone encryption app to plan their horrific crimes leading to their arrests.
Police in Australia and New Zealand began revealing the scope of the so-called Trojan Shield operation late Monday.
Authorities in Europe were due to make their own announcement early Tuesday, with the FBI̵
Antipodea authorities have credited the scheme with the arrest of more than 250 people and the seizure of more than 100 illegal firearms and other weapons, as well as millions of dollars in cash, drugs and other assets.
In addition, Australian Federal Police Commissioner (AFP) Reese Kershaw told reporters that the application helped thwart 21 murder plots, including one targeting a family of five.
Kershaw added that they had been arrested in 18 countries, including the United States. Other countries where police raids have taken place are Britain, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden.
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Kershaw said the idea for the app, called AN0M, was coined by U.S. and Australian law enforcement officials over “over a few beers” in 2018. Australian undercover agents will provide phones with the AN0M app pre-installed to some high-level criminals who recommend the application of their associates.
“These criminal influencers have put AFP in the back pocket of hundreds of alleged violators,” Kershaw said.
Phones could not make calls or send emails and could only be received through the black market. They also gave authorities access to up to 25 million real-time encrypted messages.
According to Australian media, one of the underground figures who played a key role in promoting the use of the application was the fugitive drug trafficker Hakan Ayik.
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“I think given the threat he faces, it’s best to surrender to us as soon as possible,” Kershaw told Iyik, who is believed to be in Turkey. “What you see is that he was one of the coordinators of this particular device. So he essentially created his own colleagues. And my opinion will be, the sooner he surrenders and takes care of his family, he is wanted, the better for him and his family. “
According to Kershaw, some of those arrested in Australia were “members of illegal motorcycle gangs, the Australian mafia, Asian criminal unions and serious and organized crime groups” who trafficked drugs from below “on an industrial scale”.
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“A local [motorcycle gang] a head we found … they were making $ 20 million net a month from drug distribution in that country, “he said.
The Australian newspaper reports that arrests of suspected members of South American drug cartels, as well as Middle Eastern and European criminal syndicates, are expected throughout the day.
This report originally appeared in the New York Post.