Blackberry modified to 'help drug cartels'

The chief executive of a company that created highly-secure smartphones allegedly used by some of the world's most notorious criminals has been indicted.

Canadian-based Phantom Secure made "tens of millions of dollars" selling the modified Blackberry devices for use by the likes of the Sinaloa Cartel, investigators said.

The charges marked the first time US authorities have targeted a
company for knowingly making encrypted technology for criminals.

The Department of Justice arrested Vincent Ramos in Seattle last week. He was indicted on Thursday along with four associates.

The BBC has been unable to reach Phantom Secure.

They are charged with racketeering and conspiracy to aid the distribution of drugs. Both crimes have a maximum penalty of life in prison. Mr Ramos is the only one of the group currently in custody.

"This organisation Phantom Secure was designed to facilitate international drug trafficking all throughout the entire world," US attorney Adam Braverman told the BBC.

"These traffickers, including members of the Sinaloa Cartel, would use these fully-encrypted devices to facilitate their drug trafficking activities in order to avoid law enforcement scrutiny."

'Handful of other organisations'

Blackberry did not respond to requests for comment on Thursday - and investigators would not say whether the firm had worked with them on this case. Mr Braverman said Blackberry was not alone in having its handsets altered for illegal purposes.


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