'A watershed moment': The app that brought down Australia's underworld

·News Reporter
·2-min read

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has hailed the Australian Federal Police's unprecedented operation targeting some of the nation's "most dangerous criminals".

Operation Ironside, which began in 2018, has led to charges laid against 224 alleged offenders, a substantial development Mr Morrison said was a "huge blow" on organised crime not only in Australia but around the world.

"This is a watershed moment in Australian law enforcement history," he told reporters in Sydney on Tuesday.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison hailed the three-year operation and vowed more was to come. Source: ABC
Prime Minister Scott Morrison hailed the three-year operation and vowed more was to come. Source: ABC

"The operation puts Australia at the forefront of the fight against criminals who peddle in misery and ultimately, it will keep our communities and Australians safe."

AFP Commissioner Reece Kershaw said Operation Ironside has allowed the AFP to "inflict maximum damage" to serious, organised crime.

App brings down top crime figures

The AFP, in partnership with the FBI, used an encrypted app called AN0M to fool crime gangs into using it for the organisation of mass drug importations and money laundering.

The operation has led to the prevention of “tonnes” of illicit substances from coming into Australia, Commissioner Kershaw said.

The communications found on the platform included 21 murder plots, gun distribution and mass drug trafficking, federal police say.

Commissioner Reece Kershaw explained on Tuesday the significance of operation Ironside. Source: ABC
Commissioner Reece Kershaw explained on Tuesday the significance of operation Ironside. Source: ABC

Australian Federal Police said on Tuesday it had seized 3.7 tonnes of drugs, 104 weapons and almost $45 million in cash as part of the operation.

Offenders are linked to the Australian-based Italian mafia, outlaw motorcycle gangs, Asian crime syndicates and Albanian organised crime figures.

Mr Morrison and Commissioner Kershaw vowed more was to come and this was not the end of the operation. 

Mr Morrison said he hoped the operation would provide a level of paranoia to those who have yet been caught by authorities, fearing they may have dealt with someone identified on the app.

"The AFP will be relentless. We will outsmart you. We will be a step ahead. Operation Ironside is just the beginning," Commissioner Kershaw said.

PM's strong message to drug users

Mr Morrison delivered a stern message to drug users in Australia, saying it only fuelled organised crime.

"There's nothing social about illicit drug use in this country. It fuels human misery in this country. It's dangerous," he said.

"All of us have a responsibility in our own relationships and our own families, in our own communities, to be doing what we can to encourage positive behaviours that don't indulge illicit drug use."

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