Singapore

Singapore helps seize $5m linked to firm selling ‘uncrackable’ phones

The illicit funds belonged to Phantom Secure, an encrypted telecoms network selling 'uncrackable' phones

Close to US$4 million (S$5.3 million) in illicit funds linked to a group that provided encrypted telecommunications devices and network services used by transnational organised criminal syndicates have been seized in Singapore.

A total of US$3,971,468.40 was seized from four bank accounts here by the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) of the Singapore Police Force and US authorities, said the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) on Monday.

PHANTOM SECURE

The funds belonged to Phantom Secure, an encrypted telecommunications network used by transnational organised criminal syndicates. The amount has been repatriated to the US, according to announcements from the Attorney's Office for the Southern District of California.

The seizure of the funds follows the indictment of Vincent Ramos, the chief executive of Canada-based Phantom Secure, and four of his associates, by a US federal grand jury in March 2018.

The five were accused of operating a criminal enterprise that facilitated the transnational importation and distribution of narcotics through the sale and service of encrypted telecommunications devices and services to drug traffickers.

According to court documents, Phantom Secure had advertised that its "uncrackable" phones were impervious to decryption, wiretapping or legal third-party records requests. It also provided a service to guarantee the destruction of evidence contained in the device if it were compromised by an informant, or if law enforcement acquired it.

In 2018, Ramos pleaded guilty to leading a criminal enterprise that facilitated the transnational importation and distribution of narcotics including cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine to the US through the sale of these encrypted devices.

Ramos was sentenced to 108 months in prison, and the Phantom Secure network has been shut down.

As part of his guilty plea, Ramos agreed to an $80 million forfeiture money judgment. He also agreed to give up tens of millions of dollars in identified assets in bank accounts worldwide, as well as houses, a Lamborghini, cryptocurrency accounts and gold coins.

The money repatriated from Singapore was among the assets identified by investigators to be forfeited.

The DOJ said it had worked closely with the CAD in Singapore from 2018, to identify and seize the amount linked to the sale of Phantom Secure devices.

It commended the efforts of its Singapore counterparts in identifying, freezing, and repatriating proceeds of Ramos' criminal enterprise.

Special agent in charge Suzanne Turner of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation said: "The repatriation of close to US$4 million by our Singapore-based partners ensures that Vincent Ramos and the leaders of Phantom Secure will pay for their crimes."

COURT & CRIME