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Why Drug Traffickers Ran Their Own Phone Company

It's all tied to the murder of Dutch crime blogger Martin Kok
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 17, 2019 2:40 PM CST
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A hooded man with phone.   (Getty Images)

(Newser) – A Dutch crime blogger got into his Volkswagen Polo one night in 2016 and boom, he was shot dead—a crime that led authorities to a phone company allegedly run by violent criminals, Joseph Cox writes at Vice. Why a phone company? That's what makes it interesting. As for the murder, blogger Martin Kok was out that night in Amsterdam with a man who worked for the encrypted-phone maker MPC. The man walked away, but in February police announced arrest warrants against him and two drug kingpins from Scotland who, sources say, secretly controlled MPC. Those two men—brothers James and Barrie Gillespie—are allegedly behind a violent cocaine-trafficking group that might be responsible for Kok's murder.

Motive? Kok wrote about—and apparently annoyed—Moroccan organized crime figures linked to the Gillespies, per another Cox article at Vice. As for MPC, its phones were ideal for crooks wanting to duck police detection. Other encrypted-phone makers, like Encrochat and Phantom Secure, have also sold devices to accused or convicted criminals. So the Gillespies allegedly made their own cell phones for criminal purposes while selling them to privacy-minded buyers, even using an Edward Snowden image to spark sales. They netted around $7.5 million and advertised on Kok's site. But Kok seemed oblivious to his fate, tweeting a photo of himself with an MPC-branded mug a few weeks before: "For a phone that you can't crack [...] MPC." See Cox's articles here and here. (Read more murder stories.)

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