Law enforcement agencies say they have arrested hundreds of criminals around the world in a three-year operation, using a secure messaging app run by the US FBI.
According to foreign media, the Telegraph reports, the operation, jointly conceived by Australia and the FBI, saw the ANOM app secretly distributed among criminals, allowing police to monitor their conversations without their knowledge.
And that has led to arrests in 18 countries, including suspects linked to the mafia and organized crime groups.
Meanwhile, it is reported that drugs, weapons and money were confiscated.
Australia said it had arrested 224 people as a result of the operation and acted on 20 “death threats”, potentially saving the lives of a “significant number of innocent bystanders”.
The country’s prime minister called it an operation that had cracked down on criminal gangs globally.
“[Ai] “It dealt a severe blow to organized crime – not just in this country, but one that will resonate with organized crime around the world,” Scott Morrison was quoted as saying at a news conference.
New Zealand, which detained 35 people, called the operation “the most sophisticated law enforcement action in the world against organized crime to date”.
At a press conference, Europol in the Netherlands announced that during the operation, more than 800 suspects were arrested in 700 raids, seizing a total of 8 tons of cocaine and more than 48 million dollars in cash and cryptocurrencies.
“This international coalition… carried out one of the largest and most sophisticated law enforcement operations to date in the fight against coded criminal activities,” said Jean-Phillipe Lecouffe, Europol Deputy Director.
Officials did not make public how many arrests have been made in each European country but Swedish official Linda Staaf said 70 had been arrested in Sweden and one Dutch official said 49 in the Netherlands.
Staaf, the Swedish Police intelligence chief, said the operation had prevented 10 murders.
Countries included included Australia, Austria, Sweden, Denmark, Estonia, Lithuania, Norway, New Zealand, Scotland, Britain, Germany and the USA.
The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation will provide further details of the operation later Tuesday, but Calvin Shivers of the FBI Criminal Investigation Division in The Hague said 18 months before the operation, the agency had helped distribute phones to 300 criminal groups in most more than 100 seats.