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 FBI’s field office in San Diego doing the same at noon.
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
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.
Kershaw said the idea for the app, called AN0M, was coined by U.S. and Australian “over a few beers” officials in 2018. Australian undercover agents will provide phones with the AN0M app, pre-installed on some high-level criminals who recommended the application to his collaborators.
“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 provide authorities with 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.
“I think given the threat he faces, it’s best to surrender to us as soon as possible,” said Kershaw of 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 I see that the sooner he surrenders and takes care of his family, the more wanted he is, 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 syndicates and heavy and organized crime groups” who trafficked drugs down on an “industrial scale”.
“A local.” [motorcycle gang] a head we found … they were making $ 20 million net a month from drug trafficking 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.