In the six weeks since February 20, police seized 27.64 tons of cocaine in the port of Antwerp, including a record shipment of nearly 11 tons overnight on the 2-3. April, Belgian federal police said in a statement Monday.
Police specialists gained access to encrypted messages from an encrypted messaging service called Sky ECC, which revealed detailed information about cocaine shipments, the statement said.
“During a forensic investigation of a potential criminal organization suspected of deliberately supplying encrypted phones to the criminal environment, police specialists managed to crack the encrypted messages from Sky ECC,” the statement said.
“This data contains elements of current files, but also opened up for new criminal acts. The international smuggling of cocaine batches plays a prominent role in intercepted reports.”
Police said the investigation is continuing.
This is not the first time law enforcement has infiltrated an encrypted platform used by criminals.
Last year, agencies in France and the Netherlands infiltrated a platform called EncroChat and shared the data via Europol, enabling police to monitor the private communications – including photos and millions of messages – of criminals.
EncroChat, which provided a secure online mobile phone service, was a “criminal marketplace” used by 60,000 people worldwide to coordinate the distribution of illegal goods, money laundering and planning to kill rivals, according to the United Kingdom National Crime Agency (NCA).
In July, the NCA said it had made 746 arrests and seized £ 54 million ($ 68 million) in cash, 77 firearms and more than two tonnes of drugs during Operation Venetic, the largest operation ever of its kind in the UK.
Police in the Netherlands said they had made 60 arrests during their investigation codenamed “Lemont” and had seized 25 tons of drugs, 20 million euros ($ 23 million), dozens of automatic weapons, 25 cars and expensive watches.
At a joint press conference with European law enforcement agencies at the time, Dutch police said 19 laboratories for synthetic drugs had been dismantled.
EncroChat handsets cost around £ 1,500 ($ 1,870) for a six-month contract and came with preloaded apps for instant messaging, the ability to make calls and a kill code to remove.
CNN’s Emma Reynolds contributed to this report.