German police target George ‘The Penguin’ Mitchell in encrypted phone network investigation

Notorious Dublin criminal was charging €50,000 a year fee so cartels could use phones

George 'The Penguin' Mitchell and the inside of the cyber-bunker

George 'The Penguin' Mitchell and the cyber bunker in Germany

Mitchell sold phones at €1,500 per unit, but police still managed to seize drugs and weapons© Kevin Mc Nulty

Mitchell sold phones at €1,500 per unit

Police managed to seize drugs and weapons

The high-tech cyber bunker was purchased by George Mitchell

The cyber bunker served the needs of the cartel once run by dead crime boss Pablo Escobar

Pablo Escobar© AFP file

Hermann Xennt (left) with George ‘The Penguin’ Mitchell© Kevin Mc Nulty

Nicola TallantSunday World

George ‘The Penguin’ Mitchell has been formally designated as a suspect by German police investigating an encrypted phone network busted this week.

Mitchell, who goes by the name ‘Mr Green’, is understood to be the 71-year-old Irishman listed as part of five major suspects behind the Exclu network, which was taken down by police months after it was secretly hacked by Dutch police.

It was developed over several years in an underground bunker in Germany’s Mosel Valley and Mitchell is suspected of being one of the owners of the system as well as the senior sales executive whose reputation sold the promise of privacy to 3,000 users.

Police believe the system was being used by gangs involved in top-level organised crime, mainly based in the Netherlands but also in Sweden, France, Germany and Italy. It was compromised by the police hack over a period of five months when intelligence on the criminal groups and their activities was gathered.

Police managed to seize drugs and weapons

Officers from the Dutch National High Tech Crime Unit began working with their German counterparts last April 2022 and cracked the codes sometime around the following September.

Unknown to the users, police then began to listen live as drug, cash and firearms were bought and sold and serious organised crime was planned.

Twelve hundred officers from the co-operating countries were involved in raids on 79 premises and the discovery of two drug laboratories and cocaine storage facility. Drugs, guns, weapons, luxury goods and cash was also seized as 45 people were arrested.

German police are investigating the set up of Exclu and those behind it’s development on the basis that they are suspected of facilitating organised crime by providing the ‘hack resistant’ phone system.

Mitchell’s long-term friend and business partner Hermann Johann Xennt, from the Netherlands, a Polish software developer, a Spanish tech expert and another unidentified individual are under investigation for their roles in Exclu.

Xennt is currently serving a sentence for his role in the German bunker, which was raided in 2019 by 650 police. There they discovered numerous computer servers and found that it was a secret hub of dark net activities, including drug dealing, pornography and weapons.

The high-tech cyber bunker was purchased by George Mitchell

Customers to Exclu were sold a specially developed phone and a licence to use the app service for €500 for three months.

German police have already named George ‘The Penguin’ Mitchell as their number one target in their previous investigation into the cyber bunker, and wire-tapped 16 of his phones as they gathered evidence on the dark net bunker. However, they did not charge him during a massive trial in Trier which came to it’s end last year.

Over the course of the trial, it emerged he was under surveillance for years as he visited the bunker and met withXennt, the self-professed Lord of the Darknet.

Secret files obtained by the Sunday World show how officers believed he was the boss of a cyber gang working out of it.

The explosive files reveal how officers in Europe believe Mitchell deals directly with Colombian cartels; supplies drugs and weapons to Northern Ireland; imports tonnes of cocaine into Europe, floods Holland with heroin, and is under investigation for money laundering in Spain.

They also claim he may have been involved in a Kinahan Cartel murder in 2014 and had a role in the feud between the mob and the Hutch gang, although Irish police sources claim he has stayed firmly neutral.

The wire taps and covert surveillance on Mitchell from a period from 2015 detail how he met with the head of the Bandidos biker gang and a leading figure in the Hell’s Angels in Germany to flog them encrypted phones with an app that would keep their activities under the radar.

At the time, the files reveal he planned to sell expensive €1,200-a-unit Blackberry phones coupled with a €3,000 secure app for communications with an annual service fee of up to €50k, which guaranteed customers they would not be bothered by the authorities. The system developed in Warsaw in Poland came with a ‘panic button’ so customers could delete all data in an ‘emergency.’

Hermann Xennt (left) with George ‘The Penguin’ Mitchell© Kevin Mc Nulty

The files show that phones were shipped to customers in Bogota and Medellin, home of the notorious Columbian drug cartel once headed by Pablo Escobar. Business from the bunker was also provided for criminal gangs in the Philippines, North Africa, Dubai, Canada, Belgium, the Netherlands, Poland and Scandanavia.

The lengthy investigation by Rhineland police culminated in a raid in September 2019 which saw police surround the bunker and seize control of it.

The Penguin’s business partner Herman Xennt was amongst more than 10 people arrested, but Mitchell was long gone.

The top target of the pricey probe was not amongst those later prosecuted in a year-long trial.

The Sunday World first tracked down Mitchell to Traben Trarbach, where we snapped him with Xennt. He had bought the former Cold War bunker in 2014 and registered it as a ‘data centre’.

Pablo Escobar© AFP file

At one point during the probe prosecutors applied to have 16 of Mitchell’s phones tapped but despite the huge volume of time and resources put into the operation, police were hampered by the secret language and codewords used by The Penguin and developed over years at the highest echelons of organised crime.

In applications to the courts for surveillance, details of Mitchell’s criminal empire were laid out. In 2014, he was suspected of smuggling 10kg of cocaine andguns from Holland to Northern Ireland.

He is said to have been involved in heroin trading in Holland and details of his son, Derek ‘Maradonna’ Dunne’s murder in Amsterdam in 2000 are given.

Files allege that he shipped cocaine from North Africa via Spain or Portugal to Holland in containers of oranges. The quantities are detailed as up to three tonnes a time.

Hermann Xennt (left) with George ‘The Penguin’ Mitchell© Kevin Mc Nulty

In November 2016, he is cited as being behind a 283kg cocaine seizure in Brazil headed for Europe. Spanish police in Marbella are investigating him for money laundering, it is alleged.

Throughout the investigation into activities in the bunker, files detailed that Mitchell is ‘hierarchically’ above others.

In 2017, German investigators admitted they lost sight of him and the chief public prosecutor later said there was ‘no probably cause’ to prove he headed it up.

Now it seems Mitchell may not have escaped the law after all as he faces possible charges of helping mobs to commit their crimes.

Today's Headlines

More Special Investigations

Download the Sunday World app

Now download the free app for all the latest Sunday World News, Crime, Irish Showbiz and Sport. Available on Apple and Android devices

WatchMore Videos