Australian Federal Police (AFP) has so far seized over AU$31 million of assets through Operation Ironside, the message decryption sting operation that was labelled as the country’s “most significant operation in policing history”.
The update was provided as part of an AFP announcement that it made its first multi-million cash forfeiture as part of the sting operation, confiscating AU$6 million of cash from a Western Australian man.
The man, who was a member of a criminal syndicate, has pleaded guilty to various criminal offences and will face five years of imprisonment.
The AU$6 million in cash will be redistributed from the confiscated assets account by Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews to support crime prevention, law enforcement, and related community initiatives, the AFP said.
The operation, dubbed as Project TrojanShield by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), is a global sting operation that was commenced by the US agency after it recruited a confidential human source to provide access to the Anom platform, an encrypted communications product used by transnational criminal organisations.
The AFP contributes to the sting operation by providing its “technical capability” in decrypting those messages. In Australia, intelligence and law enforcement agencies can request or demand assistance from communications providers to access encrypted communications. Europol is also involved in the operation.
The AU$31 million figure only accounts for the assets confiscated by the AFP, and does not include those seized by law enforcement agencies outside of Australia.
When the global investigation was first unveiled in June, the FBI, AFP, and Europol jointly said the operation at the time led to 525 search warrants, 224 individuals being charged, 525 charges in total, six clandestine labs being taken down, and 21 threats to kill being averted.
It also said at the time that 3.7 tonnes of drugs, 104 firearms and weapons, and over AU$45 million in assets had been seized.
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