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Over 200 people have been arrested in a high-tech sting operation between the U.S. and Australia in what Prime Minister Scott Morrison called a 'heavy blow' to organized crime.
Australian officials said Tuesday "Operation Ironside" has captured suspects hailing from 18 different countries so far, many of them involved in the global narcotics trade.
The joint operation hacked into an encrypted app called 'AN0M,' popular with organized crime groups, and uncovered millions of encrypted messages.
Australian police commissioner Reece Kershaw said those arrested included members of outlaw motorcycle gangs, mafias, and crime syndicates.
"As of today, we have charged 224 alleged offenders, including 525 charges laid, shut down six clandestine laboratories, acted upon 21 threats to kill, including saving a family of five. And seized 104 firearms and weapons and almost $45 million in cash."
Operation Ironside was conceived by Australian police and America's FBI in 2018.
Police were able to monitor the messages of a prominent Australian underworld figure, who used the AN0M app to communicate with his associates via customized phones.
Kershaw called the messages "very brazen" and said there was no attempt to hide behind codified conversation.
"When you get access, and it will come out in court, you'll see that all they talk about is drugs, violence, hits on each other, innocent people who are going to be murdered. A whole range of things."
On Monday, Australian police issued their largest number of search warrants in one day.
Authorities expect more charges in the weeks ahead.