32 Tons of Drugs Seized Across 16 Countries in FBI-Led Sting Operation Against Organized Crime

An FBI-led operation targeting gangs around the world prevented numerous crimes including murders and led to the seizure of drugs and weapons, according to Calvin Shivers, assistant director of the FBI's Criminal Investigative Division.

"The success of Operation Trojan Shield is a result of tremendous innovation, dedication and unprecedented international collaboration," Shivers said at a news conference. "And the results are staggering."

The sting led to the seizure of 32 tons of drugs, 250 firearms, 55 luxury cars, and more than $148 million in cash and cryptocurrencies in 16 countries.

Dutch National Police Chief Constable Jannine van den Berg told the Associated Press that the operation dealt "an unprecedented blow to criminal networks" worldwide.

Organized Crime New Zealand
New Zealand Police National Organised Crime Group Director Detective Superintendent Greg Williams (R) speaks to media alongside Dana McDonald, Group Manager of Intelligence and Investigations Enforcement at NZ Customs (L) at the Auckland Central Police Station on June 08, 2021 in Auckland, New Zealand. A major trans-national sting targeting organized crime groups has resulted in 35 arrests and $3.7 million in assets seized in New Zealand. Phil Walter/Getty Images

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below:

The seeds of the sting were sown when law enforcement agencies earlier took down two encrypted platforms, EncroChat and Sky ECC, that had been used by criminal gangs to organize drug trafficking and underworld hits. With the gangs in the market for a new means of communication, the FBI stepped in with a covertly developed app called ANOM that was installed on modified mobile phones. Over the past 18 months, the FBI provided phones via unsuspecting middlemen to more than 300 gangs operating in more than 100 countries.

Australian Federal Police Commander Jennifer Hearst called it "a watershed moment in global law enforcement history."

The ANOM app became popular in criminal circles as users told one another it was a safe platform. All the time, police were looking over the shoulders of criminals as they discussed hits, drug shipments and other crimes.

"There was a void that was created by a lack of these encrypted platforms," Shivers said, of the initial move to take down apps previously used by gangs. "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."

Law enforcement agencies from Sweden to New Zealand described the operation as having a significant impact.

Swedish police prevented a dozen planned killings and believe that they have arrested several "leading actors in criminal networks," according to a statement from Linda Staaf, the head of Sweden's national criminal intelligence unit.

Finnish police said Tuesday that nearly 100 people have been detained and more than 500 kilograms (half a ton) of drugs confiscated, along with dozens of guns and cash worth hundreds of thousands of euros (dollars). In Germany, the general prosecutor's office in Frankfurt said that more than 70 people were arrested Monday and drugs, cash and weapons were also seized.

In Australia, authorities said they arrested 224 people and seized more than four tons of drugs and $35 million. New Zealand police said they had arrested 35 people and seized drugs and assets worth millions of dollars.

"Today, the Australian government, as part of a global operation, has struck a heavy blow against organized crime," Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters. "Not just in this country, but one that will echo around organized crime around the world."

European police last year delivered a major blow to organized crime after cracking an encrypted communications network, known as EncroChat, used by criminal gangs across the continent.

In March, Belgian police arrested dozens of people after cracking another encrypted chat system and seizing more than 17 tons of cocaine.

Operation Trojan Police Raid
In this undated photo supplied by the New Zealand police, a box containing a large amount of cash is seen after being discovered during a police raid as part of Operation Trojan. Authorities in Australia and New Zealand Tuesday, June 8, 2021, say they’ve dealt a huge blow against organized crime after hundreds of criminals were tricked into using a messaging app that was being secretly run by the FBI. New Zealand Police via AP