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Monday 10 December 2018

CAB grabs €500k from drug trade's secure comms firm

Estonian hitman Imre Arakas
Estonian hitman Imre Arakas

A Canadian firm helping to run drug trafficking networks across the world was laundering its dirty money through two Dublin bank accounts.

The Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB) has recovered more than €500,000 belonging to Vincent Ramos, chief executive of Phantom Secure, who sold encrypted devices to drug traffickers.

Raided

Investigators believe the devices were central to several drug networks and helped with the distribution of at least 450kg of cocaine around the world.

Phantom Secure had offices in the Dublin 7 area which were raided earlier this year by members of the CAB.

A probe was launched after the CAB received information from the FBI, who were carrying out their own investigation into Canadian national Ramos.

Two bank accounts, holding around €530,000, were frozen following a search of the Dublin offices in March.

Yesterday, the High Court granted CAB orders to seize the funds, which will now be transferred to the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform.

In a US court in October, Ramos admitted that he and co-conspirators facilitated the distribution of cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine to locations in, among other places, the US, Australia, Mexico, Canada, Thailand and Europe.

This was done by supplying drug traffickers with Phantom Secure encrypted communications devices "to thwart law enforcement".

The CAB said they could be remotely deleted or "wiped".

Similar technology was discovered on Estonian hitman Imre Arakas when he was arrested by gardai investigating the conspiracy to murder Hutch associate James 'Mago' Gately.

Ramos agreed to an $80m (€70.5m) cash forfeiture as well as millions of dollars in assets.

He pleaded guilty to racketeering and will be sentenced on December 17, when he could face up to 20 years in jail.

He agreed to forfeit the server licences and 150 domains used in the operation of the Phantom Secure network. The encrypted devices were sold for between €1,700 and €2,600.

The FBI said "most of Phantom Secure's 10,000 to 20,000 users are leaders of nefarious transnational criminal organisations".

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