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Global sting: FBI-run messaging app tricks organized crime

New Zealand FBI App Sting
Posted at 7:36 AM, Jun 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-08 10:38:37-04

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — Criminal gangs divulged plans for moving drug shipments and carrying out killings on a messaging app secretly run by the FBI.

That's according to law enforcement agencies that unveiled a global sting operation Tuesday they said dealt an “unprecedented blow” to organized crime.

The operation, known as Trojan Shield, led to police raids in 16 nations over the past several days.

More than 800 suspects were arrested, and more than 32 tons of drugs were seized along with 250 firearms, 55 luxury cars, and more than $148 million in cash and cryptocurrencies.

The seeds of the sting were sown when law enforcement agencies earlier took down two encrypted platforms that had been used by criminal gangs. That left the gangs in the market looking for a new means of communication, and the FBI stepped in.

The European Union police agency Europol says law enforcement agencies from several countries strategically developed and covertly operated an encrypted device company, called ANOM, since 2019.

It reportedly grew to service more than 12,000 encrypted devices to over 300 criminal syndicates operating in more than 100 countries, including Italian organized crime, motorcycle gangs, and international drug trafficking organizations.

In the coming weeks, countless spin-off operations will be carried out, according to Europol.

Europol says the following countries participated in the international coalition: Australia, Austria, Canada, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Lithuania, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the U.S.