The CEO of a company that counted Australia as the largest single market for its secure, encrypted communications services has been indicted in the United States (US) after a multi-country police operation.
Encrypted communications technology provider, Phantom Menace, has been implicated in a global investigation undertaken by the Australian Federal Police (AFP), the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), among others.
The Canadian-based company made a name for itself building encrypted communications services into mobile devices.
Australian authorities allege that 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 the encrypted devices sold and used in Australia since the company’s inception is estimated to be well in excess of 10,000, with the country representing the company’s largest customer base.
The AFP said on 16 March that Australian law enforcement agencies working with international counterparts in the US and Canada had “successfully smashed” the enterprise, which it said was servicing the organised crime market with secure, encrypted communications.
According to the AFP, it will be alleged Phantom Secure specifically designed devices for the organised crime market, allowing criminals around the world to use unrestricted, secure communications beyond the capability of law enforcement interception.
The AFP said that five men had been indicted in the US in connection with the operations of Phantom Secure, including the company’s CEO, Vincent Ramos, 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.
Ramos was reportedly charged in early March for alleged racketeering activity, according to ABC News.
The multi-country police operation has seen authorities in several regions work dismantle the network infrastructure of Phantom Secure, located in various offshore jurisdictions, disabling the encrypted platform and the thousands of secure devices used on it.
The impact of the takedown to the global operations of Phantom Secure, its infrastructure and client base in Australia have been significant, and will be sustained, according to the AFP.
“The action taken in the US directly impacts the upper echelons of organised crime here in Australia and their associates offshore,” AFP Assistant Commissioner, Organised Crime, Neil Gaughan, said.
“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.
“Close partnerships have been the key to this operation's landmark success in Australia and recognition and thanks must go to our many partners in this investigation, principally the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission and the New South Wales Crime Commission,” he said.