EncroChat Bust Leads to 6500 Arrests in Three Years

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The dismantling of an encrypted chat platform used by organized crime gangs (OCGs) has led to 6558 arrests in the past three years, including 197 “high-value targets,” according to Europol.

EncroChat was used by tens of thousands of criminals to communicate without fear of being snooped on by law enforcers. Special devices were sold for €1000 ($1095) each and six-month subscriptions were priced at €500 ($548) – featuring 24/7 support, remote wipe and a PIN code to wipe the phone if apprehended, Europol explained.

Read more on EncroChat: Hundreds Arrested After Cops Dismantle Encrypted Phone Network

However, after an investigation by the French Gendarmerie Nationale was opened in 2017, officers found EncroChat servers based in the country and placed a “technical device” capable of reading messages passing through those servers.

French police first set up a joint investigation team (JIT) with their Dutch counterparts in 2020, supported by Europol, before agreeing to share information with authorities in other EU member states and beyond.

Since EncroChat was infiltrated, police have analyzed over 115 million conversations from over 60,000 users worldwide, with Europol providing 700 “actionable intelligence packages” compiled from this information to investigators globally.

Over the past three years, law enforcers have:

  • Seized €740m in cash
  • Frozen €154m in assets or bank accounts
  • Seized 31 million pills, 104 tonnes of cocaine, 163 tonnes of cannabis and 3.3 tonnes of heroin
  • Seized 923 weapons, 21,750 rounds of ammunition and 68 explosives
  • Seized 83 boats and 40 planes

Subsequent convictions have led to a total combined sentences of 7134 years of imprisonment, Europol added.

Among the biggest beneficiaries from the EncroChat bust have been UK investigators. The country’s National Crime Agency (NCA) arrested over 700 suspects in 2020 as part of its ongoing Operation Venetic.

Subsequently, drug traffickers caught thanks to their access EncroChat comms have been put away for long stretches behind bars.

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