Hundreds arrested in massive global crime sting
The Hague – It took U.S. $100,000 plus expenses and the opportunity for a reduced prison sentence for the smartphone developer to collaborate with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) three years ago and kick-start Operation Trojan Shield, according to a court document.
Three years later, the investigation involving 9,000 law enforcement officers from 17 countries saw authorities monitor 27 million messages from 12,000 devices in 100 countries and track the activities of more than 300 organised crime groups, the European Union’s law enforcement agency, Europol, said in a statement.
To date, there have been more than 800 arrests and the seizure of more than eight tonnes of cocaine, 22 tonnes of cannabis, two tonnes of synthetic drugs, 250 guns, 55 luxury vehicles and over U.S. $48 million in cash and cryptocurrencies, Europol said.
More arrests and seizures are expected, it said.
The U.S. court document – an affidavit from an FBI special agent first published by Vice News – said the “confidential human source”, a former drug trafficker, had been creating a new hardened encrypted phone with a bespoke app called ANOM.
The source came on board after authorities dismantled the Phantom Secure encrypted smartphone network and arrested its CEO three years ago.
For at least a decade, organised crime groups have used phones such as Phantom Secure to organise drug deals, hits on rivals and launder illicit earnings without detection, police said.
Among many of the phones’ features, content can be remotely wiped if they are seized.
But as one model was put out of business, new ones would enter the lucrative market.
The FBI decided it would launch its own, inserting a master key into the devices that attached to each message and enabled law enforcement officers to decrypt and store them as they were transmitted.