The mystery may finally be solved of how the global criminal elite were tipped off to a police probe that allowed officers to crack an encrypted criminal communication system. The EncroChat breach was undone by police corruption.
Many of you will have heard of EncroChat by now — the seemingly impenetrable phone system allowing serious criminals to talk and text in private — and an international law enforcement consortium that managed to unscramble it. The Mob Reporter here with the story of how police broke the code of underworld messages and of a new development that may shed light on how one of the most cherished police ops was burned. By one of their own.
The rise and fall of EncroChat is one of the most significant developments in international crime in years. The devices were a replacement for the Blackberry phones many gangsters used until it was revealed that Canadian police had master encryption keys to decode messages. The RCMP used it to track the Mafia in Montreal during the Rizzuto clan’s feud, and it helped solve the hit on Sal Montagna, the acting boss of New York’s Bonanno crime family, by Montreal gangsters in 2011.
Getting inside EncroChat was a modern milestone in fighting the modern face of crime. But then someone with the company found out they’d been compromised and, on June 12, 2020, an emergency alert was pushed out to users. The message warned users to “power off and physically dispose your device immediately.”
Police in several countries moved in on some of their highest-value targets. In the UK, the fruits of the EncroChat probe are still reaching deep into the underworld in an ongoing project called Operation Venetic, led by the National Crime Agency. The NCA say the data helped them pick off kingpins and “the so-called iconic untouchables who have evaded law enforcement for years.” Arrests in Operation Venetic are announce regularly. As of March, there’s been 1,550 arrests with tons of contraband and almost US$80 million worth of criminal cash seized.
Throughout these exploits, the original leak that tipped EncroChat off to the police hack remains something of a mystery. But we may have a clue about that.
Police said Natalie Mottram, 22, was working as an intelligence analyst with the North West Regional Organised Crime Unit. She was arrested with two others, Jonathan Kay and Leah Bennett, both 36 years old, of Warrington, a town between Liverpool and Manchester in England’s north. Their crime, police alleged, was disclosing information that law enforcement could access encrypted EncroChat data. Although this was announced on May 21, 2021, she was arrested nearly a year earlier — you guessed it, on June 12, 2020.
The trio is scheduled to appeared in court on June 8, just four days shy of a year after the date of her arrest and, of course, four days shy of when EncroChat users were tipped off that they’d all been burned. Maybe then we will learn more.
Canada - MR.