Scottish Drug Dealers Have Developed Secure Phones. And Then They Created A Successful Company To Se

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May 15, 2016
Scottish drug dealers have developed secure phones. And then they created a successful company to sell them
08:30, October 24, 2019 Source: Meduza

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The owners of the high-tech company MPC, which sells tamper- resistant phones, turned out to be the criminal group Brothers from Scotland, which is engaged in the drug business. Initially, the group created its own high-tech unit to avoid police surveillance, and then decided that protected smartphones could also be sold. Joseph Cox, a correspondent for Motherboard’s technology in Vice, who corresponded with MPC, told the story of the rise and fall of a successful startup created by drug dealers. Medusa retells its text.
In 2016, the blogger Martin Kok, who wrote about crime, was killed in the Netherlands. He collaborated with MPC.

On his Butterfly Crime website, blogger Martin Kok wrote about all the representatives of the criminal world of the Netherlands, from biker gangs to Moroccan drug lords. Moreover, Kok himself was once convicted of two murders. Starting to write about crime, he made enemies: once someone planted a bomb under his car equivalent in power to 40 hand grenades, but Kok found it before the explosion.

Martin Kok
On the day of the murder in December 2016, Kok met with a partner named Christopher Hughes. He worked for MPC - a company that made special encrypted phones. MPC sponsored Coca's website by posting ads on it.

Hughes and Kok spent the evening at the Boccacio sex club on the outskirts of Amsterdam. When the blogger left the club and got into his Volkswagen Polo, the man in the hood jumped out of the thick bushes at the parking lot and shot into the car. Kok was killed. Hughes left the scene, according to surveillance camera records published by the Dutch police.

Companies that specialize in high-tech for criminals are constantly appearing in the world.

Around the world there is an underground turnover of custom-made phones. They usually use special software to send encrypted emails or messages, as well as a separate server infrastructure for communications. Sometimes a microphone, a camera and GPS modules are removed from such phones. Some of them have a dual boot mode: when you turn on the device, a harmless menu screen is displayed, but if you hold certain buttons pressed, a secret file system will open containing encrypted user text messages and the like. As a result, the usual methods of intercepting messages used by law enforcement agencies are useless: correspondence is available in readable form only on the devices of the users themselves.

Companies selling such phones often serve criminals. So, the British killer, who was finally condemned due to the location data of his fitness device, used an Encrochat encrypted telephone. Phantom Secure sold its devices to members of the Mexican drug cartel Sinaloa, a gang of bikers Angels of Hell, as well as in Cuba and Venezuela.

In a Phantom Secure hearing, prosecutors said the company was not an accidental tool for cybercriminals - as if they were using Apple or Google phones - but specifically created them to help criminals. In May, company owner Carlos Ramos was sentenced to nine years in prison. He pleaded guilty to leading a criminal organization that deliberately facilitated drug trafficking through the sale of these phones.

The Canadian Police arrested the head of their own intelligence department. He was involved in the Magnitsky case, but got in collaboration with the drug dealer
MPC actively advertised his devices - she even used the image of Edward Snowden and offered money to the observer Vice

In MPC, the process of setting up such devices was relatively simple: the company took Google Nexus 5 or Nexus 5X phones and added their own functions and operating system to them. Then she created client accounts for messaging, inserted a SIM card (for which she took about £ 20 a month) and sold the phone to a client at a price of £ 1,200. According to one of the sources of journalists, MPC has sold about five thousand phones. On its website, the company also advertised rugged laptops, tablets, and GPS trackers.

She even promoted these devices using black and white portraits of Edward Snowden.

“The MPC phone provides several levels of encryption using a secure private network,” the company said in another advertising tweet.

In March 2016, Vice columnist Joseph Cox received a private message from an MPC representative on Twitter: “Hi Joseph, I would like to know if you can offer you money just to give an honest opinion about secure devices on the market?” An MPC representative suggested provide a device for review, at the same time asking if anyone else has made such suggestions. The journalist refused money, but suggested sending more detailed information about the device. “We want to send you a device so that you can see what is at stake: we offer a million pounds if someone can hack it and intercept our messages and read them,” they replied in a subsequent message.

MPC did not provide a telephone, but continued to send messages from time to time. At some point, her representative accidentally complained about the alleged informant trying to infiltrate such companies. “Please be careful, we believe that he is a government agent trying to use companies like ours to try to gain someone’s trust,” the MPC spokesman wrote.

Two years later, an unknown person contacted the journalist Vice. Using a secure messaging program, he sent links to media articles about criminal gangs involved in multimillion-dollar cocaine trafficking. “To make it clear what this is about, the people behind the MPC are mentioned here,” the source said.

None of these articles directly referred to the MPC, but it talked about how two major Glasgow drug and arms dealers from Scotland sought refuge in Portugal to avoid a gang war and continued their business. One article, based in part on materials from the Scottish news site The Daily Record, said these criminals were called Brothers. The press did not name their names, but a source told Vice that their names are James and Barry Gillespie. In February, police confirmed that the source was right, she issued European arrest warrants for Hughes, an MPC employee who was with Kok at the time of his assassination, and four others. Among them were James and Barry Gillespie.

Drug dealers created secure phones for their own needs - and then realized that they could be sold

It was the Brothers who were the ultimate owners of MPC, two sources said Vice. Initially, they were clients of the legal telephone industry and purchased specialized BlackBerry devices from a company called Ennetcom. However, Dutch police were able to link one of these devices, which was owned by a man named Danny Manupassa, to murders, armed robberies and drug trafficking. As a result, the Brothers, not wanting to trust others with their safety, decided to create their own devices and hired developers to create their own operating system. Later, the group realized that devices designed for its own needs could “close the gap in this market,” one source said.

To enter the international market, she created one-day companies, she had an office in Dubai and branches in the UK and Amsterdam. To gain a foothold in the market for encrypted phones, the Brothers and their associates resorted to intimidation tactics - by telephone or in person. So, gang members attacked with a knife a man who was engaged in mediation in the sale of such devices. “Please keep in mind: The Brothers have connections all over the world and are extremely cruel,” said a person familiar with the company.

Dutch investigators believe that the murder of Coca is connected with the so-called Escalade group, which the Scottish law enforcement agencies call the Brothers criminal enterprise. The group imported large quantities of cocaine and heroin from South America to Europe. “This group is at the top of the drug chain in Scotland and the UK as a whole,” said Judge Lord Boyd, sentencing two members of the group in April to seven years in prison for assisting in the distribution of weapons and drugs. “The brothers rule Scotland, and they rule with fear,” said an MPC source.

Escalade also actively used high technology. The bandits kept semi-automatic weapons in the secret compartments of the cars. When they were watched by the police, the group members apparently used the equipment to create telephone interference. The group even had its own technology specialist.

However, in June 2017, pressure on the MPC intensified: a company spokesperson tweeted to a Vice journalist that their products were “a victim of law enforcement tactics.”

The MPC stopped working, but the Scottish brothers were never caught.

Several months later, prosecutors in the Glasgow court indicted the serious crimes committed by the Escalade Group, including torture and murder. This happened after the police arrested several members of this organization.

In early 2018, Dutch police arrested two people suspected of involvement in the murder of blogger Martin Kok. Riduan Tagi, the leader of a Moroccan gang allegedly associated with this murder, is on the run. The source of the publication said that Kok angered the members of the Moroccan mafia, who were a constant target of his publications.

MPC has ceased operations. Her site has been disabled, and her Twitter account is not being updated. Two sources told reporters that the Brothers closed the company after the investigation began. At the same time, the Scottish police admit that the whereabouts of the criminals themselves is unknown to her. The Daily Record reported that the brothers may be located in South America.

The Scottish Organized Crime and Terrorism Police Department has approached the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (OIA) for assistance in the search. About 200 police officers, FBI and other agencies are now involved in the operation to capture them. Scottish police regularly hold joint briefings with FBI and UBN officers on the progress of the operation.

“We can confirm that the MPC is part of the ongoing investigation, but cannot give further comments in connection with this ongoing investigation,” said a spokeswoman for the UBN.
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