Australian authorities have helped to bring down a sophisticated worldwide criminal enterprise which provided secure, encrypted communications to the organised crime market.
Australian Federal Police teamed up with international counterparts in the US and Canada to bring down Canadian-based company Phantom Secure.
It is alleged they specifically designed devices for the organised crime market allowing criminals around the globe to use unrestricted, secure communications beyond the capability of law enforcement interception.
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Five men have been indicted in the United States, including the company’s CEO, on charges they knowingly participated in a criminal enterprise that facilitated the transnational importation and distribution of narcotics through the sale and service of encrypted communications.
The AFP have described it as a landmark day and say the impact of this takedown in Australia have been significant and will be sustained.
Australian authorities allege Phantom Secure was the first encrypted communication platform available on a wholesale scale in Australia, and was the largest single supplier to the Australian organised crime market.
The number of these devices sold and used in Australia since inception is estimated to be well in excess of 10,000 – the company’s largest customer base.
Australia’s role in this complex and unique investigation began in early 2017 following an exchange of intelligence with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP).
Australian authorities executed 19 search warrants on premises across four states as part of the international disruption action on 6 March 2018, where more than 1000 encrypted mobile devices were seized. There was one arrest in Victoria for offences relating to drug possession and trafficking.
AFP Assistant Commissioner Organised Crime, Neil Gaughan said the US indictment means the weapon of choice in the arsenal of organised criminal groups worldwide – secure encrypted communications – has been disrupted and disabled on an unprecedented scale.
“The action taken in the US directly impacts the upper echelons of organised crime here in Australia and their associates offshore. Using this equipment, criminals have been able to confidently communicate securely and control and direct illicit activity like drug importations, money laundering and associated serious, often violent criminal offending, yet have remained removed from these criminal acts,” Assistant Commissioner Gaughan said.