Worldwide crime sting captures hundreds thanks to 'fake' phone app

'A watershed moment': The app that brought down Australia's underworld

"ANOM" spread through word of mouth and, of course, the website.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison hailed the three-year operation and vowed more was to come.

"The success of Operation Trojan Shield is a result of tremendous innovation, dedication and unprecedented global collaboration", Shivers said.

European officials did not break down all arrests in each country, but a Swedish official said 70 had been arrested in Sweden and a Dutch official said 49 were arrested in the Netherlands.

Through the encrypted cellphones, criminals organized the shipment of cocaine from Ecuador to Belgium in a container concealed within cans of tuna, according to USA court documents. After negotiations with an unnamed third country, a message-relaying iBot server was set up in that nation to collect the BCC'd conversations, and on October 21, 2019, it began beaming copies of crooks' chats from AN0M handhelds to an FBI-owned system every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

The FBI and other countries' law enforcers discovered that Italian organised crime, Asian triads, biker gangs and transnational drug syndicates were all users.

More than 500 people were arrested over the past two days, with 800 arrested in total throughout the course of the investigation.

© Australian Federal Police, via Reuters Narcotics seized as part of the operation in Australia.

But the main indictment against Sky Global's CEO, along with an alleged former high-level distributor of the phones, landed in San Diego federal court.

A major worldwide sting meant criminal gangs thought the encrypted app, called ANOM, was safe from snooping when, in fact, authorities for months had been monitoring millions of messages about drug smuggling, money laundering and even planned killings. Soon overseas criminals were flocking to use the ANOM phone.

The police forces in sixteen countries have carried out multiple simultaneous raids across the globe, following the cracking of 'Anom, ' a cryptophone app that was used by 9,000 people and 12,000 devices worldwide.

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ANOM didn't take off immediately. That meant crime gangs which traffic drugs and organise underworld hits around the world were in the market for new secure phones.

The FBI has access to a new app named AN0M and has begun to run it without knowing the criminal's underground world.

Finnish police not only detained nearly 100 suspects and seized 500 kg of narcotics but also found a warehouse with 3-D printers used to manufacture gun parts.

"The results are staggering", FBI Assistant Director Calvin Shivers told reporters at the headquarters of the EU's police agency Europol in The Netherlands.

It was, said Australian Federal Police Commander Jennifer Hearst, "a watershed moment in global law enforcement history". "All they talk about is drugs, violence, hits on each other, innocent people who are going to be murdered".

Since October 2019, the Federal Bureau of Investigation cataloged more than 20 million messages from a total of 11,800 devices - with about 9,000 now active, according to documents, which cited Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, Australia and Serbia as the most active countries. The NCA would not reveal further details of the operations carried out or the estimated number of Anom users in the UK.

It enabled law enforcement to monitor their communications for 18 months.

The result was the arresting of 800 individuals who were confirmed to be involved in 300 criminal circles.

Drugs, firearms, luxury vehicles and more than $48 million in cash and cryptocurrencies were seized as part of the operation.

An global security expert has explained why criminals fell for an app which was central to the world's largest organised crime takedown.

Although the authorities have cracked or shut down encrypted platforms in the past - such as one called EncroChat that the police in Europe successfully hacked - this is the first known instance in which officials have controlled an entire encrypted network from its inception. The 33-year-old was arrested last week with police seizing 154g of meth.

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