After Sky ECC hack: police lift underground bank

A large system around an underground bank has been broken up by Belgian and Spanish police officers. This was possible thanks to information from chats that are about the 2021 hacked communication service Sky-ECC-Messages, says Europol. The criminal network, which was made up of Belgian, Moroccan and Spanish nationals, laundered at least 180 million euros in sales from cocaine trafficking.

According to Europol, the gang was mainly active in Belgium, with branches in the Netherlands, Spain, South America and Dubai. Members of the association are said to have set up a complex and professional system to launder profits from cocaine imports through European ports and airports. In coordinated raids in March, the investigators involved arrested five suspects in Belgium and another in Spain and confiscated various assets. In addition to selling cash, investments in cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin are said to have played a major role for the shadow bank. The criminals also invested money in luxurious real estate projects in the EU and in several Moroccan cities.

So far, law enforcement officers have confiscated 1.2 million euros in cryptocurrencies, three properties, 50,000 euros in cash, a luxury car, several expensive watches and jewelry. They also got hold of 23 telephones, three safes and a money counting machine. Investigators began investigating the case in October 2021, so Sky-ECC messages put them on the trail of a large-scale drug-related crime network. Through contact persons at various entry points, the organization is said to have managed to import several tons of cocaine and resell it at a high profit. Methods such as the use of front companies would have helped the criminals to evade the authorities until Sky ECC was decrypted.

According to Europol, it has provided analytical and operational support since March 2022. Existing connections to other countries were confirmed and new ones discovered. On the day of the access, Europol assisted the operational police forces on the ground in a joint coordination center in Leuven with one cryptocurrency specialist, one money laundering specialist and one analyst each.


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