One of the largest law enforcement operations against encrypted criminal activities to date has seized millions in crypto and penetrated over 300 criminal syndicates.
According to a press release from The European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation (Europol) on Tuesday, the operation is part of a three-year investigation into criminal rings involving the surveillance of 27 million messages via an encrypted messaging platform.
Since 2019, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), in coordination with the Australian Federal Police, developed and covertly operated an encrypted device company called ANOM.
The company eventually grew to service more than 12,000 encrypted devices to over 300 criminal syndicates operating in more than 100 countries, according to the release. Italian organized crime, outlaw motorcycle gangs, and international drug trafficking organizations were also caught up in the operation.
“Very few matters unite law enforcement like bringing to justice those who seek to do our citizens harm,” said Reece Kershaw, Australian Federal Police Commissioner. “The FBI provided an encrypted communications platform while the AFP deployed the technical capability that helped unmask some of the biggest criminals in the world.”
The goal of the new platform was to target global organized crime, drug trafficking and money laundering organizations by offering an encrypted device with features sought by organized crime networks.
Features included remote wipe and duress passwords to persuade criminal networks to select ANOM’s product over other encrypted devices on the market.
According to unsealed documents from the Southern District Court of California filed last month, of the 27 million messages conducted on ANOM devices, more than 450,000 photos were sent by criminals.
The photos provided law enforcement insight into conversations on other encrypted platforms discussing criminal activity, cryptocurrency transactions, bulk cash smuggling, law enforcement corruption, and self-identification information.
Operation Trojan Shield/OTF Greenlight/Ironside
Law enforcement WERE then able to compile the evidence over an 18-month period before executing what has come to be known as Operation Trojan Shield/OTF Greenlight
The operation involved a number of large-scale law enforcement actions conducted over a series of days across multiple jurisdictions.
The FBI conducted the operation alongside the Dutch National Police and the Swedish Police Authority, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and 16 other countries.
Police raids occurred across Australia, Austria, Canada, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Lithuania, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, the United Kingdom including Scotland, and the U.S.
More than 700 house searches saw the arrest of 800 persons from over 300 criminal rings and seizure of eight tons of cocaine, 22 tons of cannabis and cannabis resin as well as two tons of amphetamine and methamphetamine.
Additionally, 250 firearms were seized alongside 55 luxury vehicles and more than $48 million in various global currencies, including cryptocurrencies, according to the report.
“Operation Trojan Shield and Europol Operation Greenlight not only reveal how transnational criminal organizations continue to exploit encrypted communication services for their own illicit gain but also show the commitment of the law enforcement community to develop innovative strategies to counter this activity,” said Matthew Donahue, Drug Enforcement Administration Deputy Chief of Operations.
See also: UK Police Raid Suspected Cannabis Factory, Find Bitcoin Mining Operation