READ Operation Ironside: Three years, secret app, 4000 officers, organised crime transcending borders

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has described a major police operation that led to the arrest of more than 100 leading crime figures as a “watershed moment” in the nation’s crime-fighting.
Operation Ironside was part of a global policing operation and involved the use of a secret encrypted app to catch criminals.
More than 4000 officers from the Australian Federal Police, state and territories forces were involved in the operation, which secretly began three years ago.
“Today, the Australian Government, as part of a global operation, has struck a heavy blow against organised crime – not just in this country, but one that will echo around organised crime around the world,” Mr Morrison said.
“This is a watershed moment in Australian law enforcement history.”
Operation Ironside led to the arrest of 224 offenders on 526 charges in every mainland Australian state.
Those facing charges include members of outlaw motorcycle gangs, Australian Mafia, Asian crime syndicates and serious and organised crime groups.
Property seized included 3.7 tonnes of drugs, 104 weapons, $44,934,457 million in cash and assets expected to run into millions of dollars.
The AFP said it also acted on 20 threats to kill, potentially saving the lives of a significant number of innocent bystanders, with intelligence handed to state police agencies which took immediate action.
Mr Morrison said further arrests were expected.
AFP Commissioner Reece Kershaw said Operation Ironside had left organised crime in Australia reeling.
“Operation Ironside has allowed the AFP to inflict maximum damage to serious organised crime with devastating consequences to those who seek to do harm to Australians and Australia’s interests, and today, Australia is a safer country,” he said.
Mr Kershaw described those arrested as among the most dangerous criminals in Australia.
“We allege they are members of outlaw motorcycle gangs, Australian Mafia, Asian crime syndicates and serious and organised crime groups,” he said.
“We allege they’ve been trafficking illicit drugs into Australia at an industrial scale.”
Mr Kershaw said the AFP and FBI secretly used an encrypted platform known as AN0M during the operation.
The encrypted communications – which allegedly included plots to kill, mass drug trafficking and gun distribution – were decrypted from a platform covertly run by the FBI.
The app AN0M was installed on mobile phones that were stripped of other capabilities.
The mobile phones, which were bought on the black market, could not make calls or send emails.
It could only send messages to another device that had the organised crime app.
Criminals needed to know a criminal to get a device.
The devices organically circulated and grew in popularity among criminals, who were confident of the legitimacy of the app because high-profile organised crime figures vouched for its integrity.
“These criminal influencers put the AFP in the back pocket of hundreds of alleged offenders,” Mr Kershaw said.
Speaking alongside Mr Kershaw, FBI representative Anthony Russo said the operation was an example of how global cooperation between police forces could smash organised crime.
“The criminals should be on notice that law enforcement and partnerships all over the world are resolute in their dedication to collaboration and to continue to evolve our capabilities,” Mr Russo said.
Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews said the operation had been carefully planned with international law enforcement bodies.
“Our Australian Federal Police has worked hand-in-glove with US FBI to bring down some of the most significant criminals – not just here in Australia, but right around the world.”
“The relationship we’ve been able to draw on, particularly with the FBI but other agencies across the world, has led to the most significant operation in policing history here in Australia.
“It is an ongoing operation. The operation puts Australia at the forefront of the fight against criminals who peddle in misery.”