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CRIME

Fifteen gang suspects go to trial on Monday in Sweden’s biggest EncroChat case yet

Fifteen Malmö criminals believed that having encrypted EncroChat phones meant they could safely plot the gang executions of rivals. Little did they know that the encryption had been broken.

Fifteen gang suspects go to trial on Monday in Sweden's biggest EncroChat case yet
A memorial lain outside the Galaxy Cyber cafe in Malmö in 2018 after three men were shot dead inside. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

“We need get hold of things and cash for this war,” two men wrote to another on the encrypted chat service as they planned a series of murders in the spring of 2020.

Swedish police were able to follow gang members’ plans to carry out five separate lethal shootings in real-time, making them unwitting participants in one of the biggest coordinated European police operations in history.

Police waited until the last minute before stepping in to prevent the five killings happening, and monitoring the chats has thrown light on nine murders that did take place, and one kidnapping. 

On Monday,  a court case will begin in Malmö against the fifteen criminals charged for their roles in what they themselves described as a war to control the drug trade across the whole of Skåne in southern Sweden. 

In the chat, the men discussed potential hitmen to contact, how much a hitman would cost, and which getaway car should be used.

According to Michael Hansson, a prosecutor with the Swedish police’s international and organised crime unit, police were at points able to follow preparations in real-time.

“In our case, I felt that was what we could do from the middle of May last year,” he told TT. “We would probably have had a murder here instead, if we hadn’t had access to the Encrochat material in real time,” he said.

He estimates that a total of five murders would probably have happened if police had not been able to read gang members’ communications, and then, from the end of the summer last year, begin to arrest some of the suspected participants.

The full trial begins on Monday, and although the 15 men were not in the same gang, they are accused of banding together in a temporary alliance to wage a “war” against a 24-year-old man who is one of Malmö’s most notorious criminals, and the circle around him. 

“They say themselves in some situations that this is an alliance,”  Hansson said, adding that the goal had been to take over the drug trade in Skåne. 

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

Nine murders have been connected to the same conflict, including the high-profile shooting of the 31-year-old doctor Karolin Hakim in August 2019, and the triple murder inside an internet café in the summer of 2018. 

In the latter case, police believe the 24-year-old, who was injured in the shooting, had been the true target.

Two years later, the man was arrested in Dubai and extradited to Spain, where he is suspected of another murder.

The investigation document in the case extends to up to 30,000 pages, and the trial is scheduled to take 48 days in court.

One of the biggest challenges for the prosecution will be to prove that the accused are indeed the people behind Encrochat profiles such as kitekiller and knarklangaren.

“It’s the small details that we’re looking,” Hansson told TT. “Someone talks of getting a pair of dogs of a certain race, and then we go to the person’s parents’ house and find two dogs of the exact same race. Someone says that they became a dad the day before, and we can check and see that he did become a dad the day before.” 

According to the Swedish police’s nation unit NOA, the cracking of EncroChat has led to 200 people being suspected of crimes in Sweden, with several cases leading to convictions.

The EncroChat case have faced legal obstacles in Sweden, however, with defence lawyers raising issues over how the cracked material has been obtained and handled. 

“There’s nothing strange about that at all,” Hansson said. “This is surveillance information we’ve received from France and how the French obtained the material is confidential, so we don’t know [how they did it]. But in Sweden, you are free to provide any evidence you want, and then it’s up to the court to weigh up what it should do with it.”

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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. 

READ ALSO: 

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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