By Colin Packham
CANBERRA (Reuters) – Australian police arrested more than 200 people involved in organized crime after infiltrating an encrypted messaging app that opened nearly 25 million messages about “industrial-scale” drug imports and murder plots, they said. authorities on Tuesday.
They said the joint operation between Australia and the US Federal Bureau of Investigation, which began in 2018, has caught criminals in Australia, Asia, South America and the Middle East involved in the global narcotics trade.
“() has dealt a severe blow against organized crime, not only in this country, but will be echoed in organized crime around the world. This is a watershed moment in the history of Australian law enforcement,” Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters in Sydney.
Australia did not detail any arrests in other countries, but said Europol and the FBI would hold press conferences later on Tuesday.
The plan, which was conceived by Australian law enforcement officers and the FBI in 2018, caused US officials to take control of a messaging app called ANOM, which authorities said was popular with organized criminals.
When a figure from the Australian underworld began distributing the app to his associates as a secure means of communication, law enforcement authorities were able to monitor all of his messages.
“We have been in the back pockets of organized crime,” Australian Federal Police Commissioner Reece Kershaw told reporters at the same news conference.
“All they talk about is drugs, violence, beatings among themselves, innocent people who are going to be killed.”
Kershaw said an assassination plot involved plans to attack a cafe with a machine gun, while a family of five was also targeted. Authorities said they were able to prevent these attacks.
A total of 224 people were arrested Monday and 104 firearms seized, as well as nearly A $ 45 million ($ 34.9 million) in cash.
A total of 525 charges have already been filed, but authorities expect more in the coming weeks.
($ 1 = AU $ 1,2893) (This story corrects paragraph 4 to show that Europol, not Interpol, will host the conference)
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