More than 800 suspects have been arrested, 32 tons of drugs seized and $148 million confiscated in a massive global organized crime investigation, law enforcement authorities said Tuesday.
Operation Trojan Shield involved police raids in 16 countries in which 250 firearms and 55 luxury cars were also seized, officials announced at a news conference in The Hague.
Dutch National Police Chief Constable Jannine van den Berg said the operation dealt "an unprecedented blow to criminal networks, and this is worldwide."
Calvin Shivers, assistant director of the criminal investigative arm of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, said Operation Trojan Shield “is a shining example of what can be accomplished when international law enforcement partners from around the world work together and develop state-of-the-art investigative tools to detect, disrupt and dismantle transnational criminal organizations."
The key to the investigation was the ability of law enforcement authorities to listen in on the suspects’ plans, the officials said.
Law enforcement agencies took down two encrypted platforms, EncroChat and Sky ECC, that crime syndicates had been using. Authorities said that left crime gangs trafficking in drugs in need of new secure phones, which the FBI supplied with an app called ANOM that was installed on modified mobile phones.
The FBI over the last 18 months handed out the encrypted phones with the ANOM app, believed by the suspects to be safe to use, to more than 300 crime gangs operating in 100 countries, allowing authorities to monitor their drug shipments and other plans.
"There was a void that was created by a lack of these encrypted platforms," Shivers said. "So that created an opportunity for collaboration with our international partners, to not only develop the specific tool but also to develop the process of gathering the intelligence and disseminating the intelligence."
Operation Trojan Shield was led by the FBI, but included the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the European Union police agency Europol and law enforcement agencies in more than a dozen countries.
In Australia alone, authorities said they arrested 224 people, while seizing more than four tons of drugs and $35 million in an investigation that lasted three years.
"Today, the Australian government, as part of a global operation, has struck a heavy blow against organized crime," Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters. "Not just in this country, but one that will echo around organized crime around the world."