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‘One of the most extensive strikes ever’: 155 Swedish arrests in global police sting

Some 250 people were arrested in Sweden and Finland in a global crackdown on organised crime using planted encrypted phones, authorities said on Tuesday, with only Australia registering more arrests.

'One of the most extensive strikes ever': 155 Swedish arrests in global police sting
File photo of a Swedish police vehicle with barricade tape. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Out of a total of over 800 arrests across 16 countries, 155 arrests were tied to Swedish investigations and another 100 were arrested in Finland. Australia said it had charged more than 200 people.

“Yesterday, early in the morning, the Swedish police performed one of the most extensive strikes ever in intelligence-led police operations against violent crime and drug networks,” Linda Staaf, head of intelligence at the Swedish police, told reporters.

On Monday, 70 people were arrested in Sweden and another five in Spain, in addition to another 80 Swedish arrests tied to the operation, Staaf told the press conference organised by Europol in The Hague.

“Many of them (were) persons with essential roles and heavy influence on the drug market. Those who instigate murders and violence, by shootings and explosions, right in the middle of the Swedish society,” Staaf said. Sweden has for years struggled to counter a rise in crime tied to criminal gangs, which has resulted in a spike of fatal shootings and bombings in an otherwise peaceful country.

Using phones planted by the US FBI, law enforcement officers were able to read the messages of global underworld figures in around 100 countries as they plotted drug deals, arms transfers and gangland hits on the compromised ANOM devices.

Of the total 12,000 ANOM users, Swedish police had access to about 1,600 accounts, and eventually honed in on around 600 people, according to the police.

Using this information, Staaf said Swedish police had been able to “prevent more than 10 planned murders within Sweden”.

Finnish police meanwhile said in a statement on Tuesday they made almost 100 arrests and seized “more than 500 kilos of drugs, dozens of weapons and hundreds of thousands of euros in cash,” during extensive raids carried out as part of the operation.

The raids included a major seizure of cannabis and machine guns in the capital region, as well as a workshop in the southern town of Tampere “where 3D printers were being used to manufacture firearms components”, police said.

In Nordic neighbour Norway, a total of seven arrests had been made. Police in many countries had already been able to benefit from the June 2020 infiltration of the Encrochat network, which was also widely used by criminals.

This also lead to a wave of arrests, and Staaf described it as a “game changer in combatting serious violent crime”.

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CRIME

Swedish Green leader: ‘Easter riots nothing to do with religion or ethnicity’

The riots that rocked Swedish cities over the Easter holidays were nothing to do with religion or ethnicity, but instead come down to class, the joint leader of Sweden's Green Party has told The Local in an interview.

Swedish Green leader: 'Easter riots nothing to do with religion or ethnicity'

Ahead of a visit to the school in Rosengård that was damaged in the rioting, Märta Stenevi said that neither the Danish extremist Rasmus Paludan, who provoked the riots by burning copies of the Koran, nor those who rioted, injuring 104 policemen, were ultimately motivated by religion. 

“His demonstration had nothing to do with religion or with Islam. It has everything to do with being a right extremist and trying to to raise a lot of conflict between groups in Sweden,” she said of Paludan’s protests. 

“On the other side, the police have now stated that there were a lot of connections to organised crime and gangs, who see this as an opportunity to raise hell within their communities.”

Riots broke out in the Swedish cities of Malmö, Stockholm, Norrköping, Linköping and Landskrona over the Easter holidays as a result of Paludan’s tour of the cities, which saw him burn multiple copies of the Koran, the holy book of Islam. 

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More than 100 police officers were injured in the riots, sparking debates about hate-crime legislation and about law and order. 

According to Stenevi, the real cause of the disorder is the way inequality has increased in Sweden in recent decades. 

“If you have big chasms between the rich people and poor people in a country, you will also have a social upheaval and social disturbance. This is well-documented all across the world,” she says. 
 
“What we have done for the past three decades in Sweden is to create a wider and wider gap between those who have a lot and those who have nothing.” 

 
The worst way of reacting to the riots, she argues, is that of Sweden’s right-wing parties. 
 
“You cannot do it by punishment, by adding to the sense of outsider status, you have to start working on actually including people, and that happens through old-fashioned things such as education, and a proper minimum income, to lift people out of their poverty, not to keep them there.”

This, she says, is “ridiculous”, when the long-term solution lies in doing what Sweden did to end extreme inequality at the start of the 20th century, when it created the socialist folkhem, or “people’s home”. 

“It’s easy to forget that 100 to 150 years ago, Sweden was a developing country, with a huge class of poor people with no education whatsoever. And we did this huge lift of a whole nation. And we can do this again,” she says. “But it needs resources, it needs political will.” 
 
 
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