Federal public prosecutors launched the operation in co-operation with Antwerp prosecutors. The first police raids started at 5AM as the curfew ended and continued all morning.
The probe forms part of an international investigation with the focus on Belgium. An examining magistrate from Mechelen prosecutors is leading the investigation.
Police hit on the operation after they managed to infiltrate into telephones that had been secured.
Dozens of people have been arrested. Detectives also visited the premises of three lawyers.
Specialised units have been deployed. It should become clear tomorrow whether any items have been seized. Public prosecutors intend to report back on the results of the searches.
Francophone broadcaster RTBF reports that many years of investigation precede today’s operation. Officers belonging to the Federal Computer Crime Unit reportedly broke into the encrypted chat application Sky Ecc. Suspects are believed to have used telephones on which the camera, blue tooth and GPS functions had been taken out of service, but police were able to read millions of messages in the run up to today’s raids.
Cyber security consultant Tim Cools, who used to work for the Federal Police Crime Unit explains that the Sky Ecc system is particularly well designed: “I think it’s quite something if the police managed to break into this system. I would put my money on an infiltration operation meaning that somebody gave the police access.”