Six Dutch men have been arrested after a Franco-Dutch police operation to crack the EncroChat encrypted text app led authorities to seven shipping containers outfitted as grisly torture chambers and cells near the Belgian border.
Police arrested six men after snooping on their alleged plans to kidnap and take hostage fellow criminals, discussed in detail over EncroChat for months, Dutch authorities revealed on Tuesday. The kidnappers were apparently quite meticulous in their planning, with several “teams” preparing to snatch up their victims and one “observation team.” The authorities conducted their raid on June 22, swooping in right as it seemed the men were ready to strike – through their assumed victims had been tipped off by police and gone into hiding.
The men have been detained on suspicion of preparing for kidnapping, hostage taking, serious abuse and extortion, and participation in a criminal enterprise. Two of the suspects also face weapons charges. They have been ordered held for 90 days by the Amsterdam court.
Following the criminals’ digital trail led to the discovery of the horrific containers in Wouwse Plantage, which included six detention cells and one torture chamber outfitted with a dentists’ chair complete with restraints.
The detention cells were soundproofed, with handcuffs attached to the floors and ceilings, and torture tools like scalpels, saws, and pruning shears were found onsite.
Heat-insulating foil covered the walls. A warehouse onsite concealed several stolen delivery vans and fast getaway cars.
Video of the police raid shows the heavily-armed team blasting open the warehouse door and finding the disturbing setup after breaking down other doors inside.
Another shed used by the group in Rotterdam contained over two dozen weapons, as well as police clothing, bulletproof vests, and other police accoutrements like flashing lights. Some 24 kilograms of MDMA was also found onsite. The selection of goods suggested the men intended to kidnap at least some of their victims by setting up roadblocks and pretending to be cops.
Some 800 arrests have been made across Europe since the decryption of EncroChat, which had 60,000 subscribers and was based in France, promising “worry-free secure communications” to its users.
According to the UK’s National Crime Agency, however, it was a “criminal marketplace” used by gangs around the world for money laundering, selling drugs and other illicit merchandise, and plotting against rival gangs. The raids based on information from EncroChat have led to over 27 tons of drugs seized in the UK and Netherlands.