UK police arrest ‘iconic’ criminals in biggest ever operation after encryption breakthrough

UK police arrest ‘iconic’ criminals in biggest ever operation after encryption breakthrough
British police have made 746 arrests, claimed £54 million ($67 million) in criminal cash, seized 77 firearms, including an assault rifle and sub-machine guns, and more than two tons of drugs in the operation. (Photo: Metropolitan Police)
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Updated 02 July 2020

UK police arrest ‘iconic’ criminals in biggest ever operation after encryption breakthrough

UK police arrest ‘iconic’ criminals in biggest ever operation after encryption breakthrough
  • National Crime Agency (NCA) said the cracking of the encryption used by EncroChat had allowed detectives across the country to make almost 750 arrests

LONDON: British police said on Thursday they had carried out their biggest operation ever, arresting “iconic” figures and smashing thousands of conspiracies including murder plots after infiltrating a communications service used by criminals.
The National Crime Agency (NCA) said the cracking of the encryption used by EncroChat, which offered a secure mobile phone instant messaging service and was used by criminals to coordinate their activities, had allowed detectives across the country to make almost 750 arrests.
The agency said it also meant a specialist team had been able to stop rival gangs carrying out kidnappings and executions, “successfully mitigating over 200 threats to life.”

“Together we’ve protected the public by arresting middle-tier criminals and the kingpins, the so-called iconic untouchables who have evaded law enforcement for years, and now we have the evidence to prosecute them,” said NCA Director of Investigations Nikki Holland.
The NCA said it had been working with international partners since 2016 to crack EncroChat which it described as a bespoke encrypted global communications service used exclusively by criminals.




The biggest police bust of its kind seized some 77 firearms, like the one pictured here during the efforts of the Metropolitan Police in the joint operation. (Photo: Metropolitan Police)

Two months ago, French and Dutch investigators infiltrated the platform, which had 60,000 users worldwide and around 10,000 in the UK and shared the data via Europol, allowing the authorities to monitor criminals’ messages and movements.
EncroChat, which has now been shut down, had advised its users to throw away their handsets on June 13 after realizing it had been compromised.




A quantity of drugs seized under Operation Venetic. (Photo: Metropolitan Police)

However, British police have made 746 arrests, claimed £54 million ($67 million) in criminal cash, seized 77 firearms, including an assault rifle and sub-machine guns, and more than two tons of drugs, the NCA said.
It added that entire networks had been dismantled in the most significant operation of its kind. Other European law enforcement agencies have also used the information to target crime groups.