Australian drug kingpin Hakan Ayik was revealed to have unwittingly distributed the app to fellow criminal associates, including Mexican cartels, Asian triads, and outlaw motorcycle gangs. American law enforcement officials were expected to announce further arrests Tuesday.
"Our Australian Federal Police has worked hand-in-glove with US FBI to bring down some of the most significant criminals - not just here in Australia, but right around the world".
"Essentially, we have been in the back pockets of organized crime and operationalized a criminal takedown like we have never seen", Kershaw said.
In Australia alone, 224 people have been charged as part of the operation, which Prime Minister Scott Morrison said had "struck a heavy blow against organised crime - not just in this country, but one that will echo around organised crime around the world".
Police in the country have arrested more than 200 people - members of outlaw motorcycle gangs, Australian mafia groups, Asian crime syndicates and serious and organised crime groups.
New Zealand Police have seized more than $1 million in cash.
"Ironside has arrested and charged, who we allege, are some of the most unsafe criminals to Australia", AFP Commissioner Reece Kershaw told reporters.
Australian authorities acknowledged that Anom had carried only a small percentage of the total volume of encrypted communications sent by criminal networks.
"ANOM" spread through word of mouth and, of course, the anom.io website.
Australian authorities helped get these phones in die To give hands to "influential" criminals, including a fugitive Australian drug gang leader in Turkey to gain confidence. The FBI and AFP were targeting a dedicated cryptographic communication platform used exclusively by organized crime. But there was also a practical reason: It kept the operation focused on criminal groups and ensured the conversations of legitimate users wouldn't be collected.
A copy of a website sighted by iTNews dated March 21 this year criticised the operational security of AN0M, and said it used Google and Amazon Web Services features hosted in the United States that made it easy to track users.
An undercover agent eventually infiltrated his inner circle and gained Hanson's trust enough to be provided an encrypted cellphone on which to talk business. The idea built on previous such efforts, such as the Phantom Secure platform.
According to unsealed court documents cited by USA media outlet Vice, the Federal Bureau of Investigation worked with insiders to develop and distribute AN0M devices through the Phantom Secure network of existing criminal customers, unloading 50 - mostly to Australia - as a "beta test".
The phone falling into the hands of a US agent changed everything.
As Europol's announcement points out, the main part of the crackdown has been completed, but the law enforcement action isn't over yet.
With the seed of an idea, US law enforcement and Australian Federal Police hammered out logistical, technical and bureaucratic challenges over meals and beer, according to a source close to the investigation.
Many of its users had migrated over to Sky Global, also known as SKY ECC, after European authorities decrypted a similar platform a year ago, Encrochat. Over the past 18 months, the agency provided phones via unsuspecting middlemen to more than 300 gangs operating in more than 100 countries.
The growth in demand for ANØN phones spiked after Sky Global went down, according to the source.
The raids, focused in the western state of Hesse and in cooperation with Europol, were part of an investigation initiated by U.S. law enforcement authorities that started in 2018, Frankfurt public prosecutors office said.
The app formed the backbone of the operation, allowing police to look over the shoulders of criminals as they discussed hits, drug shipments and other crimes.
The messages were brazen and there was no attempt to hide behind any kind of code, he said.