EncroChat Bust Leads to 6,558 Criminals’ Arrests and €900 Million Seizure

EncroChat

Jun 27, 2023Ravie Lakshmanan

Europol on Tuesday announced that the takedown of EncroChat in July 2020 led to 6,558 arrests worldwide and the seizure of €900 million in illicit criminal proceeds.

The law enforcement agency said that a subsequent joint investigation initiated by French and Dutch authorities intercepted and analyzed over 115 million conversations that took place over the encrypted messaging platform between no less than 60,000 users.

Now almost three years later, the information obtained from digital correspondence has to –

  • Arrests of 6,558 suspects, including 197 high-value targets
  • 7,134 years of imprisonment of convicted criminals
  • Confiscation of €739.7 million in cash
  • Freeze of €154.1 million frozen in assets or bank accounts
  • Seizure of 30.5 million pills of chemical drugs
  • Seizure of 103.5 tonnes of cocaine, 163.4 tonnes of cannabis, and 3.3 tonnes of heroin
  • Seizure of 971 vehicles, 83 boats, and 40 planes
  • Seizure of 271 estates or homes, and
  • Seizure of 923 weapons, as well as 21,750 rounds of ammunition and 68 explosives

EncroChat was an encrypted phone network that was used by organized crime groups to plot drug deals, money laundering, extortion, and even murders. “User hotspots were particularly present in source and destination countries for cocaine and cannabis trade, as well as in money laundering centers,” Europol said at the time.

Cybersecurity

The mobile devices were marketed as offering “perfect anonymity” to users, allowing them to operate with impunity through features like automatic deletion of messages and options to automatically erase them from a distance by the reseller.

“EncroChat sold crypto telephones for around EUR 1,000 each, on an international scale,” Europol said. “It also offered subscriptions with worldwide coverage, at a cost of EUR 1,500 for a six-month period, with 24/7 support.”

Unbeknownst to the users, the platform was infiltrated by French and Dutch law enforcement in early 2020, offering valuable insight into the groups and their modus operandi. The company’s servers, which were operating from France, were taken 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, U.S. and Australian officials disclosed that they ran an encrypted chat service called ANoM (aka AN0M) for nearly three years to intercept 27 million messages exchanged between criminal gang members globally.

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