SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Police have arrested over a hundred suspects in the Netherlands as a result of messages intercepted on encrypted service provider EncroChat, Dutch police and Europol said on Thursday.
Some 20 million exchanges by criminals on the network were read by police before they could be encrypted in what police call ‘an earthquake for organised crime’. EncroChat has around 50,000 users worldwide, 12,000 of whom live in the Netherlands.
The investigation has so far led to the arrest of more than 100 suspects in the Netherlands and the seizure of eight tonnes of cocaine and 1.2 tonnes of crystal meth.
In total, 19 synthetic drugs labs have been dismantled and police have confiscated dozens of (automatic) fire weapons, expensive watches and 25 cars, and almost €20m in cash.
In addition, a large number of suspects have also been arrested in several countries which were not participating in the investigation, including in the UK, Sweden and Norway.
Many of these investigations were connected with international drug trafficking and violent criminal activities, Europol said. According to the Daily Mail, in Britain, 746 people have been arrested.
London’s Met force has detained 132 people – including in the most serious organised crime network in the capital – and seized more than £13.3m in cash as well as machine guns and narcotics.
More arrests are very likely to follow in the coming period, Europol said.
The investigation was set up in 2017 with French police when it came across an increasing number of EncroChat phones, and assisted by European crime fighting agencies Europol and Eurojust.
France has not yet gone public with the results of the investigation on its territory. The operation came to an abrupt end two weeks ago when EncroChat became aware of the software used by police to infiltrate the site.
It then told its users to get rid of the phones.‘It was like sitting in on a meeting of criminals’, Dutch police chief Jannine van den Berg said. It is the fourth time a network used by criminals is infiltrated by police.
In 2016 the server of network provider Ennetcom yielded millions of messages whose content is used to get the group surrounding notorious criminal Ridouan Taghi behind bars.