Comanchero enforcer ensnared in AN0M sting
Victorian Sgt-at-Arms Christian Taumoefolau was swept up in arrests made across Australia on Tuesday sparked by a genius federal police investigation codenamed Operation Ironside.
The operation used an encrypted app - AN0M - used by the underworld to plan crimes.
The hulking Taumoefolau is among Comanchero national president Mick Murray's core crew.
Melbourne-based Murray, who was not arrested in this week's raids, faces a nervous wait as police comb through 25 million messages his gang members and other underworld players sent each other via the AN0M app.
Just months ago Murray led the Comanchero Easter national run from Hallam to a pub in Tooradin flanked by Taumoefolau and another high ranking member, national Sgt-at-Arms Tarek Zahed.
The show of force, which included about 70 members from across the nation taking part in the bikie convoy, highlighted the leadership of Murray who has outlasted a turbulent period within the gang.
The outfit has also been on a recruiting drive following the defection of members to the rival Mongols.
There were already rumblings before this week's raids about encrypted platform AN0M within the Comanchero after a series of arrests jolted their faith in the app.
But this week's bombshell revelations that the AN0M app was akin to recording their crimes in a police diary has left senior Comanchero bikies, Mafia members and their associates sweating on what implications Operation Ironside holds for them.
A former anti-organised crime detective told the Herald Sun high-level criminals knew the risk of phone calls being tapped, making secure apps an essential resource.
He said that importance was magnified in the case of transnational syndicates which could not meet up in person to avoid surveillance.
"Covert communications are critical," the ex-officer said.
Lawyers, financial advisers and some seemingly legitimate business people involved with the Comanchero could also be scrutinised by law enforcement.
Assistant Commissioner Robert Hill told media on Tuesday it would take years to analyse the bumper intelligence harvest decoded by AFP operatives.
In that material will be millions of messages conducted by criminals in the belief no one was reading and storing them.
Mr Hill said trust within the Comanchero will have been damaged.
''I've got no doubt it will take them many years to again be on that scene of serious organised crime in the future,'' he said.
''But I can assure that this has stopped that particular group in its tracks.''
Information from AN0M has been used to avert several turf war murders in Victoria, including one in which cars had already been stolen and cloned plates fitted in preparation.
Police had been able to uncover plots by setting alerts for the use of certain words which might indicate a hit was being planned.
They detected high-level suspects based overseas directing "minions" in Melbourne to carry out crimes, Mr Hill said.
Nine Comanacheros were among 32 people arrested in recent days in Victoria.
Former Melbourne gang enforcer Hasan Topal will be one man watching with interest from afar.
Victoria Police are still looking at four murders, two of which are the 2017 mistaken identity killings of Zabi Ezedyar and Muhammed Yucel.
Topal, who is now in Turkey, is a suspect in both and will be aware that his brother Muhammed has been arrested.
Other Comancheros sweating will be those linked to the bungled drive-by shooting at Ravenhall of father-of-five Ikenasio Tuivasa, which is thought to be linked to conflict with the Hells Angels.
Police would not comment on the fourth for operational reasons.
Originally published as Comanchero enforcer ensnared in AN0M sting