Three years after the hack of the encrypted communication service Encrochat, Europol has taken stock. Since the messenger service was dissolved, investigators have managed to intercept, share and analyze more than 115 million “criminal conversations” from an estimated 60,000 users.
They identified “user hotspots” in the “origin and destination countries” of the illegal drug trade and in money laundering centers. In addition, a total of almost 900 million euros in fines were confiscated or frozen.
Arrests and confiscations
In 2019, French and Dutch police authorities were initially responsible for overturning Encrochat, which sucked large amounts of data from the communication service and transmitted it to Europol. Information from several million chat messages via a joint investigation team was sent to law enforcement agencies in other EU countries via the hub in The Hague.
According to Europol, 6,558 suspects have now been arrested, including 197 “high-ranking targets”, i.e. big fish in the field of organized crime, based on the cumulative figures of all the authorities involved. Courts are also said to have imposed prison sentences totaling 7,134 years.
The list of confiscated or seized monetary and material assets is also long: it shows 739.7 million euros in cash, 154.1 million euros in assets or bank accounts, 163.4 tons of cannabis, 103.5 tons of cocaine, 3.3 tons of heroin. The prosecutors also caught 972 vehicles, 271 properties or houses, 83 boats and 40 airplanes, 923 weapons, 21,750 rounds of ammunition and 68 explosives.
The end of Encrochat in 2020 sent “shock waves” to organized crime groups in Europe and beyond, Europol writes. “It helped prevent violent attacks, attempted assassination, corruption and large-scale drug trafficking, as well as gathering large-scale intelligence on organized crime.”
Illegal data exploitation?
At the beginning of 2022, criminal defense lawyers from all over Europe, together with the organization Fair Trials, reported “massive constitutional concerns and concerns” regarding data collection and use. They complain that the judicial and criminal prosecution authorities involved, such as the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) and Europol, disregarded the rights of the suspects.
A little later, the Federal Court of Justice (BGH) decided that the data skimmed off during the hack may be used in Germany when it comes to solving serious crimes. The Berlin Regional Court still sees a number of open questions that it has submitted to the European Court of Justice. An encrochat procedure is also pending at the Federal Constitutional Court. Display (olb) To the home page