Hundreds arrested in massive global crime sting

  • Hundreds arrested in massive global crime sting

Hundreds arrested in massive global crime sting

"The devices organically circulated and grew in popularity among criminals, who were confident of the legitimacy of the app because high-profile organised crime figures vouched for its integrity", Australian police said.

"This is a watershed moment in Australian law enforcement history".

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the operation "has struck a heavy blow against organised crime - not just in this country, but one that will echo around organised crime around the world". More arrests and seizures are expected, it said. Commissioner Kershaw said the organisation he leads "provided a technical capability to decrypt the messages", and that as a result his force, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Europol were able to observe communications among criminals in plain text.

Australian authorities said the sting was the nation's largest police operation and had involved 4,000 police officers.

New Zealand Police said it was the "world's most sophisticated law enforcement action against organised crime to date".

Over 4000 federal, state and territory police have been executing warrants across Australia in relation to AN0M and Operation Ironside since yesterday, police said. "When you get access and it will come out in court, you'll see that all they talk about is drugs, violence, hits on each other, innocent people who are going to be murdered", he said.

"Essentially, we have been in the back pockets of organised crime", he said.

A major global sting meant criminal gangs thought the encrypted app, called ANOM, was safe from snooping when, in fact, authorities for months had been monitoring millions of messages about drug smuggling, money laundering and even planned killings.

Among the images shared in the affidavit were mounds of blocks of illicit drugs and a diplomatic pouch identified in the court document as French and allegedly used to transport cocaine from Colombia. "And it helped prevent a number of crimes", Shivers said.

A copy of a website sighted by iTNews dated March 21 this year criticised the operational security of AN0M, and said it used Google and Amazon Web Services features hosted in the USA that made it easy to track users.

New Zealand police called their sting Operation Trojan Shield and arrested 35 people.

On top of the arrests police in numerous jurisdictions seized eight tons of cocaine, 250 guns and £34 million in cash and cryptocurrencies as well as several luxury cars.

Members of the Head Hunters, Waikato Mongrel Mob and Waikato Comencheros are among those arrested.

A total of 525 charges have been laid but authorities expect more in the coming weeks. There were still outstanding arrests to be made, National Organised Crime Group director Detective Superintendent Greg Williams said.

"As part of this, the NCA has conducted multiple operations targeting organised crime groups involved in drug trafficking and money laundering".

He said New Zealand was a small country and relied on the intelligence-gathering capabilities of its Five Eyes partners, which include the US, Australia, Canada and Britain.

As part of the operation, up to 8.6kg of meth had been seized at the border.

Twenty-one threats to kill were disrupted - including a potential machine-gun attack at a cafe - six clandestine labs dismantled and more than $45 million in cash seized in Australia.

In the past three years, NZ Police had found up to 20 organised crime groups that had been carrying out crime across worldwide borders.

"We believe the termination of these operations will have a significant impact on New Zealand's organised crime scene".