For the astonished detectives it was like “getting the keys to Aladdin’s cave”. Over the last few years, senior arms dealers and drug traffickers across Europe had come to rely on EncroChat, a shadowy tech company selling hyper-secure smartphones offering “guaranteed anonymity”.
Assured of their safety, crooks discussed products and prices in exhaustive detail, without the usual codewords. EncroChat’s steep subscription fees, running to thousands of pounds every year, were an offer no self-respecting contraband logistics professional could afford to refuse.
That is why EncroChat’s systematic infiltration by British and European police forces, finally made public on Thursday after more than 740 arrests, was an intelligence coup equal to the Enigma breakthroughs of the Second World War. One underworld insider, speaking to Vice News, was eloquent in their brevity: “People are f—–.”