Drug users arrested in Germany after cracking encrypted chat service

Drug users arrested in Germany after cracking encrypted chat service
Arrests were made after French and Dutch investigators managed to crack EncroChat messages

German police arrested hundreds on Tuesday and confiscated large amounts of drugs after infiltrating encrypted chat data on the users’ cellphones, according to German security officials.

More than 750 arrested in the raid, where a large load of weapons was found. According to Germany’s Federal Criminal Office, the arrests were made after the authorities managed to crack EncroChat, an encrypted messaging service used by criminals to finalise their deals.

French and Dutch investigators infiltrated the messaging service in April last year, gaining access to valuable data on more than 60,000 users worldwide. After arresting several users in France and The Netherlands, they shared the information via Europol, helping authorities in different countries access criminals’ messages and movements.

The seized drugs included 3.5 tons of cannabis, and hundreds of pounds of synthetic drugs, cocaine and heroin, according to a statement by the authorities.

They also confiscated 310 weapons, thousands of rounds of ammunition and assets worth 168 million euros.

EncroChat has now been shut down more than a year after telling its users to cast off their cellphones used to use the service as it realised it had been jeopardised.

The raid comes amid increasing debate over the legalisation of cannabis in Germany, which turned into a central issue in the looming watershed federal elections. Political parties debate whether to make cannabis consumption legal, remarkably boasting about turning “Cannabis Made in Germany” into a prominent item on the German exports menu.

Encrypted apps are increasingly becoming safe havens for criminal activities. Last June, the FBI ran a similar operation by tricking hundreds of criminals worldwide into divulging their unlawful actions, leading to arresting hundreds in 18 countries.

Last week, a German regional court issued a remarkable decision rendering data obtained from EncroChat by the French and Dutch police in breach of German law. This was the first time a German regional court has found evidence from this encrypted service illegal.

After the court’s decision, the Berlin general prosecutor’s office announced on Twitter that it would appeal against it.

It is unclear whether the court’s decision will have any legal consequences for the trial of EncroChat’s users arrested in Germany.