Crime gang drug deal texts revealed after global app sting

Crime gang drug deal texts revealed after global app sting
Australian authorities say they disrupted 21 murder plots, including a mass killing

Criminals exchanged messages about big-money drugs deals, including hiding cocaine in French diplomatic sealed envelopes and throwing drugs overboard a ship to be picked up by gangs.

The texts were revealed by the US Department of Justice after authorities worldwide arrested more than 800 suspected criminals caught thanks to their use of an encrypted messaging app they thought was secure.

But in an elaborate sting, the An0m app had been designed by the FBI to monitor organised criminal gangs, and the coordinated raids it led to disrupted networks across the world, police say.

In March last year, an Australian An0m user discussing the price of cocaine wrote: “Ok sweet, I got a small job that popped up for the building block. There is 2kg put inside the French diplomatic sealed envelopes out of Bogota [Colombia].”

According to the message, the Colombian distributors would take half the profit while four others would split the remaining half.

The Australian also said the drug drop could happen weekly, before sending three photos of cocaine and French diplomatic pouches, the Daily Mail reported.

Authorities monitored 27 million messages from 12,000 devices in 100 countries to track the activities of more than 300 organised crime groups, Europol said.

Seizures included more than eight tonnes of cocaine, 22 tonnes of cannabis, two tonnes of synthetic drugs, 250 guns, 55 luxury vehicles and at least $48m (£34m) in cash and cryptocurrencies.

Australian authorities said they also disrupted 21 murder plots, including a mass killing.

In January last year, an Australian discussing a cocaine-smuggling plot wrote: “Think he got it in,” before the second responded: “You’re dreaming. You reckon. What he offer it to you for.”

The first person then sent a photo of hundreds of kilograms of cocaine with batman stickers on the packaging.

Separately, crime figures discussed a shipment of drugs that were to allegedly be thrown from a ship and picked up at sea.

“I have a cargo ship with captain on side too they want to throw over (the) load as they leave,” the message read.

“So once tug boats release the pilot boat guides him out to sea. Once pilot boat leaves we (message) saying throw then they’ll throw right away. Can you do this? If so, what is your fee?”

The associate replied: “Yes they can definitely catch it. They charge 20% door fee.”

The first asked: “How many kg can they do per time? What are the cost of goods? When can we start?”

The sting was conceived in 2018 after the FBI took down a previous secure app favoured by criminals, called Phantom Secure.

The app, installed on stripped-back mobile phones, grew in popularity in criminal circles after it was vouched for by some high-profile underworld figures.

The sting, called operation Trojan Shield, which was led by Australian Federal Police and the FBI, also involved Europol and 9,000 police in 17 countries.

More arrests and seizures are expected, Europol said.

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