Key figure behind underworld chat service arrested

The police and the Public Prosecutor’s Office (OM) believe that a man from Eindhoven was one of the people behind Encrochat, the notorious messaging service with around 12,000 criminal users in our country alone. By secretly breaking into the telephone network, the police gained a spectacular insight into the criminal circuit. For example, the torture chamber at Wouwse Plantation and a money vault were discovered. Murderers, coke dealers and drug labs also came into the picture. The millions of chats provide reams of evidence to this day.

The 47-year-old from Eindhoven was already arrested in June, somewhere in the Netherlands, along with at least two other suspects, about whom nothing else is known. Prosecutors call the suspects ‘helpful’ to all crimes committed by ‘criminal clientele’. They are suspected of being members of a criminal organization: Encrochat. And money laundering. OM also writes that they were also complicit in drug trafficking and (attempted) murder and manslaughter.

The subpoena, which only became public after the hearing, shows that the man would have been involved with the company for years. From 6 November 2017 to 14 June 2020. According to the same indictment, he committed the crimes in Eindhoven.

Revolver
A revolver and ammunition were also found with the resident in Eindhoven, which is why he stayed longer in the cell. Police also found cash and cryptocurrencies.

The other two have already been released. The court ruled on Wednesday that the man can be released from his cell on Thursday, pending the trial.

The prosecution does not want to say much about the case, apart from the fact that it concerns three suspects who were in the so-called ‘middle management’. This may indicate that they are not seen as the big bosses.

Wiretapping
Encrochat was a messaging service, like WhatsApp. The main computer was in northern France. The users had cryptophones that could not be ‘eavesdropped’, or so the users thought. Because in several previous cases, such as with the company Ennetcom, the police could still find the central computers, confiscate them and see all the chats and images. They provided a wealth of evidence.

In early 2020, experts were able to penetrate the computer of the company Encrochat. The police started the investigation with the code name 26Lemont. In top secrecy, the investigators got their hands on more than 20 million messages. They even got to see live. In this way, assassination attempts could be thwarted.

In particular, the discovery of a torture chamber with an underworld prison in the Wouwse Plantage and the ‘Geldpakhuis van Oom Dagobert’ in Eindhoven, the largest money storage ever found.

The raid on the Wouwse Plantation torture chamber was filmed by the police.

Awaiting privacy settings…

Pino, Ieniemienie and cheese sandwiches
The millions of Encrochat messages are evidence in hundreds of studies. Once in a while, the police pick up new suspects, thanks to chats they sent years ago.

Suspects did it under pseudonyms such as Pino, Ieniemienie or Cheese sandwich but the police could still find them thanks to agreements, private photos and personal details such as birthdays.

Lawsuit
The arrest of the Eindhoven resident was already reported on July 3 by NOS, among others, but without details. Because the prosecution did not want to say anything at the time. Wednesday was the first public hearing of the court in Rotterdam. The hearing was inadvertently not announced by the court. A press release from the Public Prosecutor’s Office was subsequently published.

Both the Dutch and French authorities are looking for several known suspects. International search warrants have been issued.

Confidentiality violated?
Lawyers are highly critical of the use of Encrochat data. They believe that the police and the judiciary have, so to speak, swept everything in with a big dragnet without knowing who and what they would encounter. Also potentially innocent users.

With that method, they would have seriously violated privacy. Lawyers want judges to exclude 26Lemont as evidence. But for now, courts are accepting underworld chats as evidence. The discussion is far from over.

Awaiting privacy settings…

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