International investigators have arrested more than 800 suspects in 16 countries – apparently also in Austria – during an operation against organized crime.
The gangs are said to have been active in more than 100 states. It was one of the largest police operations to date, Europol announced on Tuesday in The Hague. More than 700 homes have been searched, tons of drugs have been seized and large amounts of cash, jewels and weapons have been seized.
The federal government has scheduled a press conference on Wednesday at 10 a.m.
Filtered over 27 million messages
For more than 18 months, the investigators had wiretapped telephone calls and other communication channels of the gangs in the course of the “Trojan Shield” operation. More than 27 million messages have been filtered. The blow was successful because undercover officers smuggled prepared phones into more than 300 gangs, including Mafia groups in Italy, motorcycle gangs and international drug syndicates. The phones, which were supposed to be encrypted, were, according to Europol, connected to a telecom network that had been set up by the FBI.
“This was one of the largest and most sophisticated missions ever,” said Europol Deputy Director Jean-Philippe Lecouffe in The Hague. Operation Trojan Shield was under the direction of the American FBI, the US FDA, the police of Sweden and the Netherlands and was coordinated by Europol. Investigators from numerous countries were involved.
House searches in several federal states
In Austria there were house searches in several federal states, confirmed the spokeswoman for the Federal Criminal Police Office, Silvia Kahn, of the APA. There are also said to have been arrests. For criminal tactical reasons, the authorities did not want to communicate any details on Tuesday.
“Police authorities around the world dealt organized crime a hard blow with the ‘Trojan Shield’ operation. The Austrian police were also heavily involved in this operation. The success shows how important international cooperation is in the fight against organized crime. Thank you to all partners and the police in Austria for this successful campaign, “said Interior Minister Karl Nehammer (ÖVP).
70 arrests in Germany
In Germany alone, more than 150 apartments, warehouses and business premises were searched, according to the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) in Wiesbaden. There have been more than 70 arrests. According to the investigators, the suspects in Germany are suspected of having traded narcotics and weapons.
The FBI said the San Diego office was the center of the operation with more than 100 police officers, analysts and linguists. FBI special investigator Jamie Arnold said one goal, in addition to gathering information, was to undermine the trust of criminal networks. “Criminal groups that use encrypted communications to thwart law enforcement should no longer feel safe.” It is hoped that criminals worldwide now feared that the FBI or another police agency is operating their encrypted platforms.