Police revealed they have prosecuted over 200 members of Australia’s mafia and bikie underworld in the country’s largest-ever criminal probe.
Authorities believe underworld members were duped into communicating via encrypted software built by police as part of a three-year partnership between the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
Organized crime gangs from throughout the world utilized the app, known as AN0M, to arrange killings, major drug importations, and money laundering.
Authorities claim to have been able to read up to 25 million texts live.
According to police, they discovered 21 murder plots and seized almost 3,000 kg of cocaine as well as $45 million in cash and valuables.
According to the AFP, the operation averted a suburban mass massacre in Australia, where a machine gun was planned to be used at a cafe.
Another sting scheme found by the sting targeted a family of five, according to authorities.
More than 300 search warrants were executed around Australia on Monday night, with operations also taking place in the United States and Europe.
The operation “delivered a significant blow against organized crime, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said today. Our is a story that will reverberate around the world, not just in this country.”
Mr. Morrison stated, “This is a historic event in Australian law enforcement history.”
“Our investments have enabled [the AFP] to participate in key alliances and play a prominent role in spearheading this fight against organized crime,” says the statement.
Karen Andrews, the Minister for Home Affairs, described the operation’s statistics as “astonishing.”
The investigation, dubbed Operation Ironside, is said to have uncovered criminals tied to South American drug cartels, Asian Triads, and Middle Eastern and European criminal gangs.
Several members of the Comanchero and Lone Wolf illegal motorcycle gangs were apprehended, according to police.
Arrests have been made in 18 countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, and New Zealand, with more to come.
Before police worked out how to decrypt all messages, authorities said the concept to utilize an encrypted app was conceived over a few beers with FBI agents in 2018.
The AFP developed a way to listen in on decrypted conversations between modified mobile phones.
These phones were changed so that they couldn’t make phone calls or send emails, and users could only communicate with other people who used the same platform.
After being provided a phone by undercover authorities, fugitive Australian drug trafficker Hakan Ayik accidentally disseminated the app.
Ayik, 42, marketed the program to criminal accomplices who would buy a cellphone pre-loaded with AN0M on the black market, which would allow them to send messages, distort communications, and record videos.
According to police, determining who was using a certain cellphone took months in certain cases.
Ayik, according to AFP Commissioner Reece Kershaw, is a wanted man who should surrender to Australian authorities.
“Given the danger, he’s in, he’s better off turning himself in as soon as possible,” he said.
“Because he was one of the device’s coordinators, he’s essentially set up his own coworkers.”
Approximately 4,000 police officers raided residences this week, according to authorities, with the probe becoming so large that the AFP had suspended operations for the preceding few weeks, except for those connected to child safety and counterterrorism.
AN0M devices were used by more than 11,000 people around the world, including 1,650 in Australia.
New South Wales accounted for half of the illicit behavior detected by the app.
Yesterday, police executed 210 search warrants, breaking the previous record of 50 in a single day, according to police.
Commissioner Kershaw claimed that the encryption app put federal agents in the “back pockets” of crooks.
“The FBI was in charge of this case. Commissioner Kershaw stated, “We provided the technical capability to decrypt such messages.”
“Some of the great ideas are hatched over a few beers.”
Criminals on the app, according to the Commissioner, were “extremely blatant,” making no attempt to mask their activities through coded communications.
Commissioner Kershaw stated, “All they speak about is drugs, violence, hits on each other, and innocent people who are going to be murdered.”
“It was clearly visible.”
According to him, legal authorities stopped the app from being utilized in secret for a longer period of time.
Since Sunday, more than 1,000 NSW Police officers have been on the ground, carrying out 33 search warrants and aiding the Australian Federal Police with dozens more.
Thirty-five persons have been arrested in the area, the majority of whom are suspected of narcotics distribution.
Deputy Commissioner David Hudson of the Bureau of Investigations and Counter-Terrorism remarked that though today was a fantastic day, it was only the beginning.
He said, “Today was critical in closing down a number of illegal operations across NSW.”
“When we remove some elements of the criminal element, this is a continuous process.”
“Someone will always try to replace it, and that is what we are most concerned about now and in the future.”
He claimed that the recent beefing up of Strike Force Raptor and the severe crime squad was done in part to prepare for “what will happen next.”
“We’ve seen that when we have an influence, there are repercussions, obligations owed, and confrontation,” he said.
- Hakan Ayik: AFP
- evidence recovered: AFP
- property raid: AFP
- Australian Police: AFP