Organized crime caught up in the aftermath of the encrypted EncroChat network

The French and Dutch courts and police announced this Thursday, July 2, the results of the investigation that led to the dismantling of the encrypted EncroChat network. CHARLOTTE VAN OUWERKERK / AFPTV / AFP

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After infiltrating and dismantling a global encrypted communications network, called EncroChat, used by criminal groups, French and Dutch judicial and police authorities have made more than 800 arrests.


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An earthquake for organized crime. The infiltration and disruption of the encrypted communications network EncroChat, carried out jointly by the French and Dutch courts and police, led to multiple arrests in several European countries and prevented the perpetration of numerous criminal acts.

It is as if we were at the table of criminals' discussions, live  ", summed up this Thursday July 2, Jannine van den Berg, chief of the Dutch police at a press conference in The Hague (Netherlands) ), at the headquarters of Eurojust, the body for judicial cooperation between European countries. This is what makes the investigation unique  "

We used the fact that criminals blindly trust crypto-communication and speak freely,  " added his colleague Andy Kraag, comparing this information to "  a gold mine providing us with evidence that would have cost us years in normal time  ”. The prosecutor of Lille Carole Etienne, the deputy director of the judicial police of the French national gendarmerie Jean-Philippe Lecouffe and the Dutch attorney general John Lucas took part in this conference.

Joint Franco-Dutch survey

The joint Franco-Dutch investigation, under the aegis of Eurojust, seized in 2019 by France and with the support of Europol, the European criminal police agency, has made it possible in recent months to intercept and decipher in real-time, without their knowledge, "  more than 100 million messages  " exchanged via EncroChat between criminals around the world.

This major intrusion ended on June 13 when the network realized, according to a warning message sent to all of its customers, that it had been "  illegally infiltrated  " by "  government entities  " and told them so advised to get rid of their phones immediately. According to the authorities, almost all of EncroChat's clients (90% to 100%) are linked to organized crime. Some 50,000 of these phones were in circulation in 2020.

Encrypted phones sold 1,000 pieces

As of 2017, the use of these phones was detected in France during operations conducted by the Criminal Research Institute of the National Gendarmerie, which has since worked on the operation of these encrypted communications. The communications network was specialized in the sale of encrypted telephones in the service of criminal organizations by guaranteeing total anonymity and perfect impunity to its customers, even in the event of arrest. The devices were sold for around 1,000 euros, with subscriptions offering global coverage and 24/7 technical support, at a cost of 1,500 euros for six months.

If France does not wish for the moment to communicate on the details of the operations in progress, the Dutch authorities assure that the infiltration of EncroChat made it possible to prevent the commission of "  dozens of violent criminal acts  ", including kidnappings , murders and shootings. In the Netherlands alone, the investigation led to the arrest of more than 100 suspects, the seizure of more than 8,000 kg of cocaine and 1.2 tonnes of crystal methamphetamine, the dismantling of 19 drug laboratories synthetic, the seizure of dozens of firearms, luxury watches, 25 cars and nearly 25 million euros in cash.

In the UK, where some 10,000 clients are using EncroChat, authorities have arrested 746 suspects and seized £ 54 million, 77 firearms and more than two tonnes of drugs, according to a National Crime statement. agency (NCA), which is delighted to have reached "  network heads  " which until then seemed "  untouchable  ". Arrests have also been made in Spain, Sweden and Norway, according to the Lille prosecutor.

(With AFP)

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