Over the past three years, global authorities collaborated to hatch a plot that would be right at home in a Hollywood blockbuster — complete with undercover operatives, informants, and a sophisticated encryption tool that tricked criminals into revealing their most confidential secrets. More than 800 arrests have been made as a result of sting operations conducted simultaneously around the world, resulting in the seizure of millions of dollars in cash, in addition to a slew of luxury items including weapons, watches, sports cars, and wine collections.
Law enforcement from 17 different countries, under the direction of the FBI, participated in joint investigations known as Trojan Shield in Europe and the United States and Special Operation Ironside in Australia. As reported by the Washington Post, the efforts netted “eight tons of cocaine, 22 tons of marijuana and hashish, two tons of methamphetamine and amphetamine, 250 firearms, 55 luxury vehicles and more than $48 million in cash and cryptocurrencies.”
Amongst the treasure trove of high-priced items and status symbols recovered are what is being described as two complete sets of Penfolds Grange wine. Penfolds Grange is considered the most coveted and valuable Australian wine, highly revered for the quality and consistency of its Shiraz-based blend. If the sets are truly complete and include the original 1951 vintage that was never commercially released, each set could be worth as much as $431,0000 — the price paid at auction in 2020.
Criminal organizations utilized the ANoM app to direct narcotics transfers, contract killings, and fraudulent activities. Unbeknownst to the perpetrators, the encrypted app was sending every message directly to the FBI, which was secretly controlling the software. Agents were tasked with filtering through 27 million messages in 45 languages over an 18-month period.
A number of fugitives are being sought in connection with the arrests made this week, and the details uncovered as a result of these inquiries will continue to provide ammunition for future investigatory proceedings.