Europol on Tuesday announced that takedown EncroChat in July 2020 led to 6,558 arrests worldwide and the confiscation of 900 million euros of illegal proceeds.
The law enforcement agency said that a subsequent joint investigation initiated by the French and Dutch authorities intercepted and analyzed more than 115 million conversations that took place via the encrypted messaging platform between no less than 60,000 users.
Now nearly three years later, the information gleaned from digital correspondence has yielded –
- Arrest of 6,558 suspects, including 197 high value targets
- 7,134 years in prison for convicted criminals
- Cash confiscation of €739.7 million
- Freeze €154.1 million frozen in assets or bank accounts
- Confiscation of 30.5 million chemical drugs
- Seized 103.5 tonnes of cocaine, 163.4 tonnes of marijuana and 3.3 tonnes of heroin
- Confiscation of 971 vehicles, 83 boats and 40 aircraft
- Foreclosure of 271 estates or houses, and
- Confiscation of 923 weapons, as well as 21,750 rounds of ammunition and 68 explosives
EncroChat is an encrypted telephone network used by organized crime groups to plan drug deals, money laundering, extortion and even murder. “Rat users are mainly present in source and destination countries for cocaine and cannabis trafficking, as well as in money laundering centres,” Europol said at the time.
Mobile devices are marketed as offering “perfect anonymity” to users, allowing them to operate with impunity through features such as automatic deletion of messages and the option to have them automatically deleted remotely by a retailer.
“EncroChat sells crypto phones for around EUR 1,000 each, on an international scale,” said Europol. “It also offers a subscription with worldwide coverage, which costs EUR 1,500 for a six-month period, with 24/7 support.”
Unbeknownst to users, the platform was compromised by French and Dutch law enforcement in early 2020, offering valuable insight into the group and their modus operandi. The company’s servers, which were operating from France, were shut down.
The illegal use of encrypted communications has since led to the dismantling of another service called Sky ECC in March 2021. In June 2021 US and Australian officials revealed that they ran an encrypted chat service called ANoM (aka AN0M) for almost three years to intercept 27 million messages exchanged among members of criminal gangs globally.