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Hundreds Arrested In Global FBI Sting Operation Using Undercover Messaging App 

Law enforcement agencies announced this week that hundreds of criminal gangs around the world have been divulging plans to move large drug shipments and carry out killings on a messaging app that was secretly being run by the FBI. The agency said that this was a “global sting operation that dealt an unprecedented blow to organized crime in countries around the world.”

The mission itself was known as operation Trojan Shield and led police to gangs in 16 nations. Over 800 suspects have now been arrested and over 32 tons of drugs were seized; including cannabis, cocaine, amphetamines, and methamphetamines. Additionally, 250 firearms, 55 luxury cars, and more than $148 million in cash and cryptocurrency were seized. 

The operation initially started when law enforcement shut down EncroChat and Sky ECC, two encrypted platforms that were known for being used by criminals to communicate without worry of outside interference. 

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After these lines of communication were cut, the FBI developed their own covert app called ANOM that was installed onto modified phones. Over the past 18 months the FBI has been secretly providing phones using an unsuspecting middleman that infiltrated over 300 gangs operating in more than 100 countries. 

Calvin Shivers, assistant director of the FBI’s Criminal Investigation Division, spoke at a news conference this week about the major operation. 

“Intelligence gathered and analyzed using this app enabled us to prevent murders. It led to the seizure of weapons and it helped prevent a number of crimes. The operation dealt with an unprecedented blow to criminal networks worldwide.”

“There was a void that was created by a lack of these encrypted platforms. So that created an opportunity for collaboration with our international partners, to not only develop the specific tool but also to develop the process of gathering the intelligence and disseminating the intelligence,” Shivers explained. 

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“The ANOM app became popular in criminal circles as users told one another it was safe. Meanwhile, the police were looking over their shoulders the whole time.”

According to a statement from Linda Staaf, the head of Sweden’s national criminal intelligence unit, “Swedish police prevented dozens of planned killings and have arrested what we believe to be leading actors in criminal networks.”

Finnish police reported that they have detained about 100 people and more than half a ton of confiscated drugs, along with hundreds of illegally owned guns and cash. German prosecutors reported more than 70 arrests in connection to the sting. 

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters the nation’s authorities “arrested 224 people and seized more than four tons of drugs and $35 million. Today, the Australian government, as part of a global operation, has struck a heavy blow against organized crime. Not just in this country, but one that will echo around organized crime around the world.”

“The success of Operation Trojan Shield is a result of tremendous innovation, dedication and unprecedented international collaboration. And the results are staggering,” Shivers proclaimed.

Drugs

U.S. and China Joint Investigation Leads To Arrests In Massive Fentanyl Trafficking Ring

China and the United States clearly never see eye to eye. However, this week, the two countries worked together to make a big arrest involving a massive fentanyl smuggling ring between America and China. This Thursday, Chinese authorities sentenced one man to death and imprisoned eight others for trafficking fentanyl into the United States (NBC). Initially, the joint effort was in response to President Donald Trump’s public criticism and call to action directed at China to adopt stricter policies regarding drug trafficking, especially when it comes to fentanyl which is responsible for tens of thousands of deaths in the U.S. every year. 

The case started with an arrest in New Orleans in August 2017 that revealed information about a woman in China, known as ‘Diana’, who sold narcotics online and shipped orders to the U.S. That information was passed on by American officials to drug investigators in China, who spent months uncovering a sprawling network of fentanyl labs, producers and dealers,” according to Janis Frayer for NBC

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Police stand guard outside the Xingtai Intermediate People’s court

When a major wire transfer was made to “Diana” this week, authorities had all the information they needed to make a move. The raids made in response to the wire transfer lead to the nine arrests, and brought in over 26 pounds of fentanyl, along with other opioids and records that helped authorities track areas in the United States that the drugs were being trafficked to. More than 50 U.S. residents names and addresses were seized from the “Diana Organization’s” records which lead to three major arrests in the U.S., and 25 new cases to be opened here in America (NBC). 

Tensions between China and the United States have been especially on the rise within the past few months as we are currently in the midst of a massive trade war with the country. Because of this, this collaborative effort between both countries authoritative forces is being eagerly showcased in the media, and rightfully so. America has often criticized China on their laid back approach to drug trafficking and has labeled them as “complacent” so when these arrests were made China made sure that Americans knew how big of a deal it was. 

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Yu Haibin (C), deputy director of China National Narcotics Control Commission (ONNCC), speaks during a briefing in Xingtai

So much so that during the court proceedings this week, China invited groups of journalists to come and cover the hearings to ensure that the news would spread quickly and efficiently as the charges were made. Journalists were also invited to attend a news conference covering the case both before and after the hearings, China provided police escorts for all the journalists to and from the conference and court to show that they were serious and organized about this accomplishment. The case was being presented at a court in Xingtai, which is about 220 miles from Beijing. 

According to NBC’s coverage of the event, the nine defendants were made up of five men and four women, all of which were seated in the courtroom during the entire proceedings, but none were allowed to speak. There were three presiding judges, one of which was responsible for reading out all the details of the case, the charges that were being made for each individual, and what their sentences would be. The leader of the entire smuggling ring was sentenced to death after he serves a two year sentence, his charge was “leading a conspiracy to defy Chinese laws to manufacture and smuggle the drug of fentanyl to the United States.”

“Their measures are very covert, our investigators lack chemistry expertise … it’s definitely hard to identify and verify this type of substance,” Liu Zhiyong, the deputy chief of Xingtai Public Security Bureau told NBC News.

Due to the success of this collaborative effort, there are now two more ongoing joint fentanyl investigations occurring between the United States and Chinese authorities. This effort could help bring down some of the biggest international drug trafficking rings.