'Torture chamber' found by Dutch police in Encrochat hacking investigation

The high-security Encrochat handsets
The high-security Encrochat handsets

Dutch police have arrested six men after discovering sea containers that had been converted into a "torture chamber".

Police said the sound-proofed makeshift prison contained a dentist's chair and tools including pliers, scalpels and handcuffs.

Authorities said police conducted the raid before the torture chamber could be used and alerted potential victims, who went into hiding.

The grisly discovery was made last month by officers investigating leads generated by data from encrypted phones used by criminals that were cracked recently by French police, as revealed by the Irish News last month.

Detectives in Northern Ireland, Britain and the Netherlands have already arrested hundreds of suspects based on the encrypted messages.

The announcement gave a chilling insight into the increasingly violent Dutch criminal underworld, which is involved in the large-scale production and trafficking of drugs.

Dutch police said last week that their investigations, codenamed 26Lemont, based on millions of messages from the Encrochat phones, had led to the arrest of more than 100 suspects and seizure of more than 8,000 kilograms of cocaine and 1,200 kilograms of crystal meth as well as the dismantling of 19 synthetic drugs labs and seizure of dozens of firearms.

Read more: Law enforcement hacking of encrypted phone system Encrochat like 'having an inside person in every top organised crime group'

On June 22, Dutch national police force officers arrested six men on suspicion of crimes including preparing kidnappings and serious assault. Detectives also discovered the seven converted sea containers in a warehouse in Wouwse Plantage, a small village in south-west Netherlands, close to the border with Belgium.

They were tipped off by messages from an Encrochat phone including photos of the container and dentist's chair with belts attached to the arm and foot supports. The messages called the warehouse the "treatment room" and the "ebi", a reference to a top security Dutch prison. The messages also revealed identities of potential victims, who were warned and went into hiding, police said.

Video released by the police showed a heavily armed arrest team blasting open a door at the warehouse and discovering the improvised prison. Another armed team detained a suspect in Rotterdam.

"Six of the containers were intended as cells in which people could be tied up and one container was intended as a torture chamber," Andy Kraag, head of the police's National Investigation Service, said, adding that the police operation "prevented a number of violent crimes".

A search of the containers uncovered bags containing tools including hedge cutters, scalpels and pliers. The tools "were likely intended to torture victims or at least put them under pressure," the police said.

A court in Amsterdam ordered the six suspects to be detained for 90 days as investigations continue.

Read more: Law enforcement hacking of encrypted phone system Encrochat like 'having an inside person in every top organised crime group'