Tuesday, 28 September, 2021

Ironside: Hundreds arrested in massive global crime sting

'A watershed moment': The app that brought down Australia's underworld Ironside: Hundreds arrested in massive global crime sting
Adrian Cunningham | 08 June, 2021, 21:49

Australian Federal Police Commander Jennifer Hearst called it "a watershed moment in global law enforcement history".

It marked the culmination of a three-year surveillance operation, dubbed Operation Ironside, whereby AFP agents secretly monitored criminal activities on AN0M, a messaging app that users thought was encrypted.

Bags of evidence were taken from an Adelaide property.

"Today, the Australian Government, as part of a global operation, has struck a heavy blow against organised crime - not just in this country, but one that will echo around organised crime around the world", Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.

Eventually, it led to the arrest of over 800 suspected criminals globally.

Offenders are linked to the Australian-based Italian mafia, outlaw motorcycle gangs, Asian crime syndicates and Albanian organised crime figures.

Large bags of cannabis, multiple kilograms of iodine, four firearms, 14 vehicles and motorbikes, more than $1 million in cash and a number of mobile phones had also been seized. 'Operation Trojan Shield/Greenlight will enable Europol to further enhance the intelligence picture on organised crime affecting the European Union ... and will support the continued effort in identifying operating high-value criminal targets on a global scale, ' Europol said. There were still outstanding arrests to be made, National Organised Crime Group director Detective Superintendent Greg Williams said.

"Essentially, they have handcuffed each other by endorsing and trusting ANOM and openly communicating on it - not knowing we were watching the entire time", said AFP Commissioner Reece Kershaw.

From its first foothold in Australia, the Anom network spread to more than 100 countries, Europol says, adding that police agencies were able to obtain some 27 million messages.

Mr Morrison and Commissioner Kershaw vowed more was to come and this was not the end of the operation.

Pope voices sorrow over Canadian deaths, doesn't apologize
The UN called on the Vatican to help investigate a mass grave found at a Catholic school for Indigenous children in Canada. The school was run by the Catholic Church between the late 1800s and the 1960s.

"We are behind organized crime", Kershaw said in the same media briefing.

Operation Ironside began nearly three years ago and is an Australian component of a long-term, worldwide secret investigation.

The encrypted communications - which allegedly included plots to kill, mass drug trafficking and gun distribution - were decrypted from a platform covertly run by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Results in Australia alone have included over 500 warrants executed, 200-plus arrests, the seizure of AU$45m and 3.7 tonnes of drugs, and the prevention of a credible threat to murder a family of five. (9News) Motorbikes were among items seized in an Adelaide police operation. As advertised, the messaging app allowed users to send encrypted voice messages and texts between devices, and the registered phone can not have other installed applications to ensure security and utmost privacy.

The phones could not make calls or send emails, and they could only be obtained through the black market. Undercover investigators solicited certain underworld "influencers" to get the custom phones into the hands of fellow criminals, and new users had to be vetted by known existing customers, according to a source close to the investigation.

A major global sting meant criminal gangs thought the encrypted app, called ANOM, was safe from snooping when, in fact, authorities for months had been monitoring millions of messages about drug smuggling, money laundering and even planned killings.

Australian police said they had arrested 224 people, including members of outlawed motorcycle gangs, and disrupted 21 murder plots.

"The use of encrypted communication apps presents significant challenges to law enforcement and ANoM has given law enforcement a window into the level of criminality that we have never seen before on this scale".

Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews said the operation had been carefully planned with worldwide law enforcement bodies.