Australians land on FBI’s indictment after secret app explodes

A top-secret messaging app, allegedly used by thousands of people across the globe to organise crime and violence, has been shut down by the police who started it.

Three years after police took control of AN0M, an encrypted messaging app that only gave users access through verified devices, hundreds of people were yesterday arrested over their alleged involvement.

A total of 225 people have been arrested in Australia so far, in sweeping raids across all states and territories, with police promising they’ll continue taking action.

And arrests are continuing across the globe.

In a grand jury indictment, unsealed in a California District Court overnight, the FBI named 17 defendants it was focusing its case on.

Seven of those are Australians.

“Since October 2019, AN0M has generated the defendants millions of dollars in profit by facilitating the criminal activity of transnational criminal organisations and protecting these organisations from law enforcement,” the indictment reads.

“(The 17) were leaders, members, and associates of criminal organisation … the AN0M ENTERPRISE, whose members engaged in acts involving drug trafficking, money laundering, and obstruction of justice.

“Leaders, members, and associates of the AN0M Enterprise operated throughout the world, including Australia, Colombia, the Netherlands, Turkey, Thailand, Sweden, Spain, and throughout the United States.”

The seven Australians the FBI has its sights include Sydney fugitive Joseph Hakan Ayik, who has been the run from Australia for more than 10 years.

Ayik, 42, was the first person to be given access to AN0M and spread devices to his vast contact book of underworld figures.

He fled Australia in 2010 to avoid being arrested for his alleged involvement in a $230 million heroin importation.

Ayik, described as a “citizen of Turkey who currently resides in Turkey”, was the first to be named in the US’ indictment.

He is described as “an administrator of the AN0M network, as well as an influencer”.

According to unsealed court documents, the FBI launched Operation Trojan Shield, known as Operation Ironside in Australia, with a “beta test” of 50 AN0M devices distributed in Australia.

The devices were marketed as “designed by criminals for criminals” and sold for about $2000 each, with a $1300-$2100 user fee every six months.

They had no email, call or GPS services and could only send text or photo messages to other AN0M phones.

Criminal “influencers” were recruited to push them, including Ayik.

The second Aussie named on the FBI’s indictment is Adelaide man Domenico Catanzariti.

Catanzariti lives and works in Adelaide for an olive business.

The indictment alleges he is an administrator of the network.

Administrators allegedly have physical control of the “AN0M enterprise network” and can create new subscriptions, set up access for distributors, delete accounts, and remotely delete and reset devices.

The third Aussie in the FBI’s sights is Baris Tukel.

Tukel, a citizen of Australia, but currently living in Turkey, is listed as a fugitive on the court document.

“Tukel is a distributor of the AN0M network to criminal end-users, as well as an influencer,” the indictment alleges.

Tukel was allegedly the Comanchero sergeant-at-arms – a bikie enforcer – at the time.

The fourth Aussie on the indictment is Erkan Yusef Dogan.

Dogan is also living in Turkey, and listed as a fugitive on the FBI’s document.

“Dogan is a distributor of the AN0M network to criminal end-users, as well as an influencer,” the indictment alleges.

The fifth Aussie is Shane Geoffrey May, an Australian living in Indonesia.

May is allegedly a distributor of the AN0M network to criminal end-users.

Court documents filed in the US revealed May and Tukel allegedly spoke on AN0M.

“They have already got a few packages in,” Tukel told buyer May, according to the documents.

As proof, Tukel texted pictures of the pouch bound and stamped ‘Valise Diplomatique Francaise’ and another shot of tightly wrapped drug packs.

The pouch was a verified French embassy protected diplomatic pouch.

“They can do it weekly,” he wrote.

Edwin Harmendra Kumar is the sixth Australian listed on the indictment.

He is described as a distributor of the AN0M network.

The final Aussie listed on the indictment is Osemah Elhassen.

He is believed to be living in Colombia.

The indictment describes him as a “distributor of the AN0M network to criminal end-users”.

Police arrested more than 800 people worldwide in a huge global sting involving encrypted phones that were secretly planted by the FBI and later de-encrypted by Australian Federal Police.

Police in 16 countries were able to read the messages of underworld figures as they plotted drug deals, arms transfers and gangland hits on the compromised AN0M devices.

Mafia groups, Asian crime syndicates, motorcycle gangs and other criminal networks were all monitored using the spiked phones as part of Operation Trojan Shield, the name given to Operation Ironside in the US.

The sting, jointly conceived by Australia and the US Federal Bureau of Investigation, prevented around 150 murders, foiled several large-scale narcotics shipments and led to seizures of 250 weapons and $48 million in currency, they added.

“The results are staggering,” FBI Assistant Director Calvin Shivers told reporters at the headquarters of the EU’s police agency Europol in the Netherlands.

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Author: Shirley

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