a “turning point” against organized crime, 6,500 people arrested

The Europol and Eurojust agencies ensure that the operation notably made it possible to avoid “a hundred assassinations or kidnappings”.

The 2020 takedown of the global encrypted communications network EncroChat constituted “a turning point” in the fight against organized crime, according to a report drawn Tuesday, June 26 by Europol. According to the European agency, thanks to this operation, more than 6,500 people were arrested and “a hundred murders or kidnappings” were avoided.

The European police cooperation agencies, Europol, and judicial cooperation, Eurojust, as well as the French and Dutch public prosecutor’s offices presented this hunting board during a press conference in Lille (Nord), from where the investigation had been launched in 2018 after the localization in Roubaix of EncroChat servers. At this stage, nearly 900 million euros in criminal assets have been seized or frozen, more than 100 tons of cocaine, 160 tons of cannabis, 923 weapons, 40 planes or 271 houses and properties have been seized, listed Europol. Among those arrested, there are 197 “high value targets”.

115 million “criminal conversations”

The sentences handed down thanks to the decryption amount to 7,134 years in prison. “Up to 123 countries” were involved in the operation, which “undoubtedly marked a turning point in the fight against organized crime” and international cooperation to deal with it, underlined Jean-Philippe Lecouffe, Deputy Executive Director of Europol. The infiltration of this network, which promised criminal groups an absence of absolute traceability, made it possible to intercept 115 million “criminal conversations” of approximately 60,000 users.

In France, 84 procedures have been opened, said Lille prosecutor Carole Etienne. Network users were “particularly concentrated in countries of origin and destination” drug trafficking, and “in money laundering centers”notes Europol.

The dismantling of EncroChat was announced in July 2020 by the French and Dutch judicial and police authorities, after the network detected, on June 13, 2020, that it had been infiltrated. EncroChat sold for around 1,000 euros fully encrypted phones, without a camera, microphone, GPS or USB port, with a “panic pin code” option allowing a flash wipe. What to bring back, in three years, “about 200 million euros to the group that set it up”according to Europol.

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