More than 200 alleged members of mafia-style crime syndicates, outlaw motorcycle gangs and transnational serious organised crime gangs have been arrested for major drug and weapon offences as part of an Australian Federal Police-led operation that also involves state and territory police forces.
Operation Ironside had, as of last night (Tuesday night) led to the arrest of 224 offenders on 526 charges within Australia. More arrests are expected domestically as part of a coordinated global response that includes law enforcement authorities in multiple countries.
Operation Ironside began almost three years ago and is the Australian component of a long-term international covert investigation. The American FBI and AFP created a dedicated encrypted platform that could be used exclusively by organised crime.
AFP provided skilled specialist staff
The AFP provided the highly skilled technical staff and capability to decrypt and read the criminals’ encrypted communication in real time, giving law enforcement an important edge. At the same time, the FBI was running the new platform named AN0M and operating it without the knowledge of the criminal underworld that believed it had a secure communications platform.
As part of the global operation resulting from this top-secret information, more than 9,000 officers from law enforcement have been deployed to the resulting international arrest-and-seizure efforts, with more than 4,500 members from Australian police forces helping to execute hundreds of warrants across the country since Monday.
“The Federal Government congratulates the AFP for their dedication to keeping Australia safe and acknowledges the state and territory agencies for their support of Operation Ironside,” the Liberal Party said in a media statement.
In its own statement, the AFP said the encrypted communications – which allegedly included plots to kill, mass drug trafficking and gun distribution – were decrypted by authorities from the platform covertly run by the FBI.
Drugs, weapons, cash and assets seized
According to the AFP statement, 3.7 tonnes of drugs, 104 weapons, $44,9-million in cash, and assets expected to run into the millions of dollars have been seized under Operation Ironside since 2018.
“The AFP also acted on 20 threats to kill, potentially saving the lives of a significant number of innocent bystanders, with intelligence referred to state police agencies which took immediate action,” it said.
“[Australian police] are now likely to seek extradition of a number of persons of interest living overseas. It comes as there have been tonnes of drugs seized and hundreds of arrests made overseas.
“The AFP will allege offenders linked to Australian-based Italian mafia, outlaw motorcycle gangs, Asian crime syndicates and Albanian organised crime are among those charged under Operation Ironside,” the Federal Police said.