Hundreds arrested as secret crime chat-room busted

UK arrests 746 in ‘biggest ever’ op against criminals

Crime lords arrested after European police crack secret chat service

"It also underlines the importance of continued cross-border co-operation in law enforcement, as well as the value of the partnerships forged through Scotland's Serious Organised Crime Taskforce and our highly-prized Scottish Crime Campus".

Police used the hack to foil crimes including "violent attacks, corruption, attempted murders and large-scale drug transports", Eurojust and the European Union police agency Europol said in a joint statement.

EncroChat delivered a message to its 60,000 users in the month of June notifying them to get rid of their devices as its servers had been "seized illegally by government entities".

Two months ago, British partners in France and the Netherlands infiltrated the platform, and the data was shared via Europol, the law enforcement agency of the European Union.

The NCA said it had made 746 arrests, and seized £54 million ($68 million) in cash, 77 firearms and more than two tons of drugs during the unprecedented Operation Venetic.

She said: "Organised crime groups have used encrypted communications to enable their offending".

An estimated 60,000 people, with up to 10,000 in the United Kingdom, were subscribers to France-based EncroChat network which has been deactivated.

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"They have openly discussed plots of murder, launder money, deal drugs and sell firearms capable of causing atrocious scenes in our communities".

Vendors and privacy advocates have fought against such measures, arguing that the installation of any such backdoors could be abused by both criminals, unfriendly nation states, as well as law enforcement (see: Apple Blasts Judge's iPhone Backdoor Order).

She went on: "By monitoring thousands of handsets and analysing millions of messages we have already mitigated threats to life including conspiracy to murder we have protected the public by taking unsafe firearms and drugs off the streets and we have seized millions of pounds in criminal cash and assets". This gave them means of communicating between each other which they thought were safe.

Dame Cressida Dick, Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, which made 171 of the arrests, described the operation as a "game changer".

The Met Police said it had arrested some of the capital's "longest-standing and most risky criminals", who are linked to violent crime and importing Class A drugs, and "lead lavish lifestyles and live in multi-million pound properties".

The NCA said it had been working with worldwide law enforcement agencies since 2016 to target EncroChat and other encrypted criminal communication platforms by sharing technical expertise and intelligence.

Detective Superintendent Katy Barrow-Grint, head of specialist operations for Thames Valley Police, said: "Thames Valley Police is committed to tackling serious and organised crime and will disrupt it wherever we can". Many of these investigations were connected with global drug trafficking and violent criminal activities, Europol said. "I'd say to any criminal who uses an encrypted phone, you should be very, very anxious".

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