Operation Trojan Shield, involving police swoops in 16 nations, led to the seizure of more than 32 tons of drugs and $148 million in cash and cryptocurrencies
Criminal gangs divulged plans for moving drug shipments and carrying out killings on a secure messaging system secretly run by the FBI, law enforcement agencies said Tuesday, as they unveiled a global sting operation they said dealt an “unprecedented blow” to organized crime in countries around the world.
The operation known as Trojan Shield led to police raids in 16 nations. More than 800 suspects were arrested and more than 32 tons of drugs — including cocaine, cannabis, amphetamines and methamphetamines — were seized along with 250 firearms, 55 luxury cars and more than $148 million in cash and cryptocurrencies.
The seeds of the sting were sown in 2018 when law enforcement agencies took down a company called Phantom Secure that provided customized end-to-end encrypted devices to criminals, according to court papers. Unlike typical cell phones, the devices don’t make phone calls or browse the internet — but allow for secure messaging. As an outgrowth of the operation, the FBI also recruited a collaborator who was developing a next-generation secure-messaging platform for the criminal underworld called ANOM. The collaborator engineered the system to give the agency access to any messages being sent.
ANOM didn’t take off immediately. But once other secure platforms used by criminal gangs to organize drug trafficking underworld hits and money laundering were taken down by police, chiefly EncroChat and Sky ECC, gangs were in the market for a new one and the FBI’s platform was ready. Over the past 18 months, the agency provided phones via unsuspecting middlemen to more than 300 gangs operating in more than 100 countries.
Published: June 08, 2021