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Hundreds arrested in FBI-led global organized crime sting using messaging app

Law enforcement officers have used an encrypted app to arrest hundreds of suspected organized crime figures around the world in a three-year operation led by the FBI, authorities in Australia announced Tuesday.

Driving the news: Authorities decided to use the An0m messaging app to track suspects globally in an investigation called Operation Ironside after Aussie police officers and FBI agents discussed the matter over "a few beers" in 2018, according to police in Australia.

  • It's resulted in raids in places including Australia, New Zealand, Asia, South America and the Middle East, according to Australian authorities.
  • Australian police said Tuesday members of outlawed motorcycle gangs were among 224 people arrested in the country, while their counterparts in New Zealand said 35 people had been taken into custody.

What they're saying: Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said at a briefing the operation "has struck a heavy blow against organized crime ... one that will echo around organized crime around the world."

  • Australian Federal Police Commissioner Reece Kershaw said at the news conference that the FBI "had the lead on this," while Aussie police "provided the technical capability to decrypt those messages."
  • "Some of the best ideas come over a couple of beers," he added.
  • The FBI could not immediately be reached for comment.

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