Weekend Herald

Sting tale better than fiction


One of the big questions to come out of the massive police raids on organised crime this week is: Why didn’t someone think of this before? To recap, law enforcemen­t Operation Trojan Shield infiltrate­d encrypted devices used by crime groups, led by the FBI and co-ordinated with the DEA, AFP, Europol and other law enforcemen­t partners from more than a dozen countries, including New Zealand.

The scheme was reportedly initiated after an Australian Federal Police officer posed a thought over beers with mates in the FBI, “why don’t we create our own messaging device and get criminals to use it while we watch?”

Edmund Blackadder would have called it a plan so cunning, you could put a tail on it and call it a weasel.

After shutting down another encrypted platform in 2018, the FBI’s chat app, Anom, was passed by undercover agents to fugitive Australian drug trafficker Hakan Ayik. He then recommende­d the app — promoted as “designed by criminals for criminals” — to others on the black market. For more than

18 months, Anom’s criminal users unknowingl­y communicat­ed on a system operated by FBI agents. In all,

12,000 encrypted devices were used by about 300 criminal syndicates in more than 100 countries.

After the Anom app spread around the criminal world, authoritie­s gathered a massive tranche of evidence while preparing for the “sting of the century”.

Fifty-seven of the devices were being used in New Zealand for “criminal needs”, said the National Organised Crime Group director, Detective Superinten­dent Greg Williams.

One other question to come of this is: Who will play the Australian cop in the inevitable Hollywood movie?

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