Cybercrime , Fraud Management & Cybercrime

Suspected EncroChat Admin Extradited to France

Authorities Hacked the End-to-End Encryption Platform in 2020
Suspected EncroChat Admin Extradited to France
France is prosecuting a suspected EncroChat administrator after his extradition from the Dominican Republic. (Image: Shutterstock)

The Dominican Republic earlier this month extradited to France a suspected administrator of now-defunct encrypted messaging service EncroChat.

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The detained individual, whose identity French authorities are withholding, had an outstanding arrest warrant issued by the Public Prosecutor of Lille in July 2021, said Eurojust on Wednesday.

The encrypted service, dubbed "WhatsApp for crooks" shut down operations in 2020 after Dutch and French police had hacked into its network the same year. The messaging service offered modified smartphones with encryption capabilities to its subscribers and was primarily used by organized crime members to plan criminal activities (see: EncroChat Disruption Leads to Arrest of Over 6,000 Suspects).

French authorities detained the suspect last week for charges related to money laundering, illegal arms possession and unauthorized sale and transfer of cryptologic devices. The accused will remain in judicial custody until at least the end of the case proceedings.

The Public Prosecutor of Lille did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The arrest and extradition are the latest in a series of actions European authorities have been taking against EncroChat. In 2023, French and Dutch action led to the arrest of 6,558 individuals worldwide, and police recovered 900 million euros in criminal funds.

Legal proceedings against EncroChat users have been embroiled in legal tussle across European high courts after defense lawyers questioned the legality of the police sting operation that began with the French and Dutch law enforcement agencies installing a Trojan on the EncroChat server. Defense lawyers, academics and privacy groups have argued that the European Investigation Order used to carry out the EncroChat hack had violated cross-border evidence-sharing rules.

Rights groups have also challenged the decision of the French and Dutch authorities to withhold data relating to the operation.

A German court in Berlin suspended last October the trial of a German EncroChat user being held for drug trafficking, ruling that the EncroChat evidence that German police obtained from the French agencies was inadmissible due to its nontransparent nature. The case was later referred to the European Court of Justice, which in September approved the validity of evidence gathered by the French police.

Similar cases in France and the U.K. were also cleared by the highest courts in those countries.

About the Author

Akshaya Asokan

Akshaya Asokan

Senior Correspondent, ISMG

Asokan is a U.K.-based senior correspondent for Information Security Media Group's global news desk. She previously worked with IDG and other publications, reporting on developments in technology, minority rights and education.

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