The FBI has indicted six Australians for their alleged links to An0m encrypted devices, and the men charged ranged from administrators, who allegedly ran the network, to distributors, who allegedly controlled equipment that provided the devices to criminals.
The An0m devices were released in October 2018 by a convicted narcotics importer working as an informant for the FBI.
The FBI subsequently spent nearly three years monitoring the content of messages sent through the platform with the help of the Australian federal police, until it was shut down on Tuesday and the infiltration was revealed.
More than 12,000 devices were sold to criminal syndicates operating in some 100 countries and sending 27 million messages. before the network was shut down.
Seventeen people around the world have been charged with an FBI indictment, including Turkish national Hakan Ayik, who previously lived in Australia.
The men have been charged in the United States with violating the Racketeers Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (Rico) and face a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.
Ayik, Australian citizen Domenico Catanzariti and Swedish citizen Maximilian Rivkin were the three administrators of An0m, the FBI alleged.
Administrators controlled the network, established new subscriptions and deleted accounts, and had the ability to remotely destroy content on a device on demand, according to the indictment.
The FBI said Ayik and Rivkin were fugitives currently residing in Turkey, but Catanzariti, of Adelaide, was in custody.
The FBI alleged that two other Australian men living in Turkey, Baris Tukel and Erkan Yusef Dogan, were An0m “influencers and distributors.” Tukel, Dogan, Ayik and Rivkin were the influencers in the company, the FBI alleged.
Tukel and Dogan had previously been found to have ties to the Comanchero motorcycle gang and the FBI said they were also “fugitives.”
“Influencers are well-known criminal figures who wield significant power and influence over other criminal associates,” the indictment says.
The other Australian distributors, the FBI alleged, were Shane Geoffrey May, Osemah Elhassen and Edwin Harmendra Kumar.
The FBI alleged that the distributors controlled groups of agents who provided the devices, charged fees for their use, could communicate directly with administrators, and also shared similar powers with respect to remote data wiping.
May and Elhassen were listed by the FBI as fugitives residing in Indonesia and Colombia, respectively. Kumar, from Sydney, is believed to have been arrested last week.
AFP was unable to provide further details about Catanzariti or Kumar, not even when they were arrested, whether they had appeared in court and the process for their extradition. He also declined to comment on whether he was assisting in the capture of the other four Australian nationals charged by the FBI who were classified as “fugitives.”
The FBI alleged that the An0m company laundered money related to the proceeds from the sale of the devices and tried to avoid law enforcement by locating its “technical infrastructure” outside the US.
The money the group made was significant, the FBI claimed: A six-month subscription to An0m cost $ 1,700 in Australian or Canadian dollars, or between € 1,000 and € 1,500 in Europe.
The devices were promoted to potential customers as not subject to US law and “designed by criminals for criminals,” the indictment says.
The FBI said the operation, codenamed Trojan Shield, resulted in 800 arrests and the seizure of nearly 40 tons of drugs and chemical precursors; 250 firearms; and more than $ 48 million in various world currencies. “Dozens of cases of public corruption” were also initiated as a result of the investigation.
AFP Commissioner Reece Kershaw said Tuesday that the Telecommunications and Other Legislation Amendment Act (Tola), passed in 2018, had been used for the first time as part of the operation, along with legal clearance from the FBI.
The joint parliamentary intelligence and security commission is reviewing the law and was due to complete its work in September last year.
James Renwick, the independent supervisor of national security legislation, previously recommended 33 changes to significantly amend the Act in regards to the new powers granted to the police and intelligence agencies. The Legal Council has endorsed the changes.
But Mike Burgess, the current head of Asio, said in a 2018 statement issued in his former role as Managing Director of Australia’s Directorate of Signals that “many of the claims about the ‘dangerous’ nature of the Act are hyperbolic, inaccurate. and influenced by self-interest, rather than national interest.
“The real danger is what the Tola Law seeks to prevent: terrorists, pedophiles and other criminals who communicate in secret, without law enforcement and security agencies being able to ‘crack their code.’
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism