EncroChat bust leads to 6,500 arrests, €900m seized

European policing agency Europol announced that the dismantling of the encrypted communications tool EncroChat, widely used by organised crime groups (OCGs), has so far led to 6,558 arrests worldwide — and the seizure or freezing of €900 million of criminal funds.

Europol said 197 of those arrested were “High Value Targets.”

This result is detailed in the first review of EncroChat, which was presented by the French and Dutch judicial and law enforcement authorities in Lille.

“The successful takedown of EncroChat followed the efforts of a joint investigation team (JIT) set up  by both countries in 2020, supported by Eurojust and Europol …” said Europol.

“The dismantling of EncroChat in 2020 sent shockwaves across OCGs in Europe and beyond.

“It helped to prevent violent attacks, attempted murders, corruption and large-scale drug transports, as well as obtain large-scale information on organised crime.

“OCGs worldwide illegally used the encryption tool EncroChat for criminal purposes.

“Since the dismantling, investigators managed to intercept, share and analyse over 115 million criminal conversations, by an estimated number of over 60,000 users.

“User hotspots were prevalent in source and destination countries for the trade in illicit drugs, as well as in money laundering centres.

“The information obtained by the French and Dutch authorities was shared with their counterparts in EU Member States and third countries, at their request.

“Based on accumulated figures from all authorities involved, this led to the following results, three years after the encryption was broken by law enforcement.”

Investigations into the alleged criminal conduct of the company operating EncroChat were restarted by the French Gendarmerie Nationale in 2017, after discovering that the phones were regularly found during operations against OCGs.

Subsequent investigations established that the company behind the tool was operating via servers in France.

Eventually, it was possible to place a technical device to go beyond the encryption technique and obtain access to users’ correspondence.

A case was opened at Eurojust in 2019 by the French authorities.

Data was shared with the Netherlands, which led to the setting up of the JIT in April 2020. Since then, information on criminal activities was shared with national authorities within and outside the EU, at their request.

In view of ongoing investigations, Eurojust and Europol did not disclose a full list of authorities involved.

Europol analysed over 115 million messages and data it received from the JIT partners.