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Greek Police Get Criminal Gang Encrypted Data from Closed Networks

ATHENS – Critical encrypted information from two now-shut down communications companies has been obtained by Greek police in their investigation into the operations of criminal gangs and mobsters who’ve been able to largely evade being stopped.

The police were said to have gotten 4,500 recorded conversations, 28 million messages and 250,000 photos that came from EncroChat – closed in 2020 – and SkyGlobal in 2021, companies forced to close and had 60,000 subscribers.

Kathimerini reported that the police were able to get the data but it didn’t say how or why they were able to see encrypted messages, no immediate response from data rights groups resistant to law enforcement invading privacy rights.

But police in other European countries have also been using the data to track down criminals, including in 2023 when 108 suspected members of Italian crime syndicate Ndrangheta were arrested in operation Eureka.

That same year, Europol said that information also led to more than 6,500 arrests being made with more than 700 million euros ($706 million) seized and some 100 tons of cocaine impounded as well.

The Greek police’s Counter Narcotics division and then Homicide began seeking the data with help from police in Austria, Belgium and France, as well as Europol, going to the agency’s headquarters in The Hague, leading to arrests of drug dealers.

Greek law enforcement also reportedly discovered communications about assassination contracts put out by criminal leaders who used foreign hit men, mostly from Montenegro and Serbia, but there were no reports about whether they had information on who ordered the killing of journalist Giorgos Karaivaz, who was gunned down in April 2021.

Police have been struggling to rein in mob violence and activities of the underworld said to run a number of gasoline stations and nightclubs and employ hit men from other countries for kills and the masterminds not being found.

In 2022, the police began Operation Clean Hands to try to deal with the violence, at the time looking for clues and the killers of notorious gangster Yiannis Skaftouros, 55, gunned down with an assault rifle and a pistol in what police believe was a contract execution.

Skaftouros, sentenced to life in prison but released in 2019 under a leniency law passed by the former ruling Radical Left SYRIZA, was a prominent member of what police and the media call the ‘Greek Mafia’.

According to information they got from questioning witnesses, investigators believe one of the shooters was either Georgian, or an ethnic Greek from the same country, and the other two Albanians, said Kathimerini.

Skaftouros’ murder, in his holiday home northwest of Athens, is one of at least 20 committed since 2017 as part of a turf war among gangs involved in extortion and other criminal activities, the report added.

A confidential 100-page report seen by Kathimerini was submitted to Supreme Court prosecutor Vassilis Pliotas by Citizens’ Protection Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis to review.

The report was prompted by turf wars between rival protection rackets, and identified at least 20 protection rackets, three in Attica, but also in Patra, Agrinio, Zakynthos, Kalamata, and Mykonos.

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