Thousands arrested since crime chat network cracked: Europol


More than 6,500 people have been arrested following the 2020 dismantling of EncroChat, an encrypted communications tool used by organised crime, Europol said on Tuesday.

Close to 200 of the arrests were “high-value targets”, said the organisation that assists EU members in international investigations, adding that nearly 900 million euros ($983 million) of criminal funds had been seized or frozen.

French and Dutch police announced in July 2020 that they had shut down the encrypted phone network used by organised crime groups across Europe for assassination attempts and major drug deals.

The move allowed police to read many millions of messages by suspected criminals, Europol said in Tuesday’s first review of the operation against customers of EncroChat, which sold customised encrypted phones.

Since 2020, investigators had managed to intercept, share and analyse over 115 million criminal conversations, by an estimated number of over 60,000 users, the report said.

The intercepted calls included conversations about planned violent attacks, attempted murders, corruption and large-scale drug shipments, it said.

“EncroChat phones were presented as guaranteeing perfect anonymity, discretion and no traceability to users,” Europol said.

The devices had functions intended to ensure the automatic deletion of messages, and all data on the device. “This would allow users to quickly erase compromising messages, for example at the time of arrest by the police,” it said.

In total 6,558 suspects were arrested, leading to an accumulated 7,134 years of imprisonment of convicted criminals, Europol said.

Police seized 30.5 million pills of chemical drugs, 103.5 tonnes of cocaine, 163.4 tonnes of cannabis and 3.3 tonnes of heroin.

French law enforcement launched a probe into the company operating EncroChat in 2017 after its phones were regularly found during operations against organised crime organisations, leading to the creation of a task force housed at Europol.

Headquartered in The Hague, Europol helps EU members and other countries coordinate the fight against serious international and organised crime, cybercrime and terrorism, and provides analysis of criminal and terrorism activities.__Daily Times