(BBC) – A top-secret communications system used by criminals to trade drugs and guns has been “successfully penetrated”, says the National Crime Agency.
Major crime figures were among 746 arrests after messages on EncroChat were intercepted and decoded.
More than two tonnes of drugs, several dozen guns and £54m in suspect cash have been seized, says the NCA.
The NCA worked with forces across Europe on the UK’s “biggest and most significant” law enforcement operation.
Officers are said to have prevented people being murdered after covertly monitoring planned attacks and threats to life on the encrypted service.
The NCA says the Europe-wide operation, which lasted over three months and involved police forces across the UK, has had the biggest impact on organised crime gangs it has ever seen.
The Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Dame Cressida Dick, whose force made 132 of the arrests and seized £13.3m in cash, described it as a “game changer”.
She said: “This is just the beginning. We will be disrupting organised criminal networks as a result of these operations for weeks and months and possibly years to come.”
An estimated 60,000 people, among them up to 10,000 in Britain, subscribed to France-based Encrochat, which has now been taken down.