How an informant and a messaging app led to huge global crime sting

www.reuters.com
3 min read
fairly difficult
It took $100,000 plus expenses, and the opportunity for a reduced prison sentence, for the smartphone developer to collaborate with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in 2018 and kick-start Operation Trojan Shield, according to a court document.
Persons are detained by Australian Federal Police after its Operation Ironside against organised crime in this undated handout photo released June 8, 2021. Australian Federal Police/Handout via REUTERS



Three years later, the investigation involving 9,000 law enforcement officers from 17 countries saw authorities monitor 27 million messages from 12,000 devices in 100 countries and track the activities of more than 300 organised crime groups, the European Union's law enforcement agency, Europol, said in a statement.

To date, there have been more than 800 arrests and the seizure of more than eight tonnes of cocaine, 22 tonnes of cannabis, two tonnes of synthetic drugs, 250 guns, 55 luxury vehicles and over $48 million in cash and cryptocurrencies, Europol said.

More arrests and seizures are expected, it said.

The U.S. court document - an affidavit from an FBI special agent first published by Vice News - says the "confidential human source", a former drug trafficker, had been creating a new hardened encrypted phone with a bespoke app called ANOM.

The source came on board after authorities dismantled the Phantom Secure encrypted smartphone network and arrested its CEO in 2018.

For at least a decade, organised crime groups have used phones like Phantom Secure to organise drug deals, hits on rivals and launder illicit earnings without detection, police say. Among many of the phones' features, content can be remotely wiped if they are seized.

But as one model was put out…
Tom Allard
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