Irish organised criminals caught up in international messaging sting

Irish organised criminals were using the Anom encrypted messaging system which was secretly run by the FBI
Irish organised criminals caught up in international messaging sting

Irish organised criminals were using the Anom encrypted messaging system which was secretly run by the FBI, senior Garda sources believe.

The Irish Times reports that information taken off the system will be used to strike against Irish gangs at home and abroad in the months ahead.

The newspaper has also separately established that intelligence from the infiltration by European law enforcement last year of the encrypted messaging system EncroChat has been used in Garda operations in recent months.

That information directly led to one very significant strike in the Republic against an Irish gang, as well as providing information for other raids targeting drug gangs.

Garda sources last night said while some other European police forces had made public statements about the raids they had carried out based on the intelligence from the Anom operation, and EncroChat last year, the Garda was taking a more discreet approach.

Biggest gang leaders

One source said gardaí were confident that Anom will provide “high-grade information” that could be used as intelligence for investigations and searches.

Other sources said they were hopeful some of the messages may relate to the biggest Irish gang leaders, including the leadership of the Kinahan cartel offshore.

Image: Graphic News

The Anom encrypted messaging system was being used by an estimated 300 crime gangs across 100 countries. They sent 27 million messages over 18 months, most of which were still being analysed.

The European Union’s police agency Europol described the use of the system to infiltrate organised crime as the “biggest ever law-enforcement operation against encrypted communication”.

It said the information analysed to date had already resulted in 800 suspects being arrested and the seizure of eight tonnes of cocaine, two tonnes of amphetamines and 22 tonnes of cannabis. There had also been 700 house searches, 250 firearms seized and $48 million in cash or cryptocurrency seized.

Modified phones

Garda Headquarters at Phoenix Park, Dublin, last night said the Garda worked “in close co-operation with European and international partners” to investigate organised crime, adding it did not comment on those activities.

“An Garda Síochána’s success in tackling organised crime is evidenced by the significant seizures in recent years of large quantities of drugs, cash and firearms from organised crime gangs, as well as major CAB operations to seize assets from individuals involved in organised crime,” it added.

The Anom operation involved the FBI taking control of a system designed to allow organised criminals send encrypted message to each other on modified mobile phones.

The FBI took control of the system in 2019 from a suspect in the United States who had developed it, but later became an informer.

The US and Australian authorities yesterday went public with their operation which saw undercover agents from both countries offer the modified phones to selected criminals for a sign-up fee of about €1,100 followed by €800 every six months.

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