The cracking of the encrypted message service Sky ECC has now also led to the clarification of a dozen grenade attacks in Antwerp throughout recent years, along with arson attacks, threats, and intimidation.
Grenade attacks have been somewhat common in parts of Antwerp in recent years, especially last summer and especially in Deurne.
Police often had little success in finding answers, as there were never any witnesses and victims were usually not inclined to provide details to officers about why their homes would be targeted.
But after police gained access to the thousands of messages criminals were sending one another on special phones from the Canadian company Sky ECC, they were able to determine who committed many of the attacks, and the Antwerp Federal Judicial Police took 12 people into custody on Thursday.
According to the public prosecutor's office, these suspects are “often people who grew up in Antwerp, but who have chosen a place to live abroad because of their criminal activities.”
Several of Antwerp’s top criminals from the drug world have found refuge in Dubai, for example, in recent years.
- Over 27 tonnes of cocaine intercepted in the port of Antwerp
- When Sky ECC fell, so too did Belgian crime lords
According to reporting from De Standaard, some of the crimes uncovered - apart from the grenade attacks - include a man who worked at the Port of Antwerp and was stopped while driving home in September last year by five masked men posing as police, who brandished a firearm and threatened him.
Another port employee was threatened by four or five men who burst into his home “commando style” with weapons and handed him a telephone on which they said he would later be contacted.
Yesterday morning, investigators carried out 24 house searches in Antwerp, Borgerhout, Borsbeek, Essen, Lokeren, Wilrijk and Wijnegem, as well as in the prisons of Antwerp and Mechelen.
Those arrested are men between 19 and 41 years of age, along with one minor. Five of the encrypted phones were found.
The Brussels Times