They Still Sell Those?

Dutch Cops Bust Another PGP BlackBerry Company for Alleged Money Laundering

Cops are increasingly targeting those who sell devices traditionally used by organized crime groups.

Joseph Cox

Joseph Cox

Image: Pieter Beens/Shutterstock

Cops are really cracking down on companies selling so-called encrypted BlackBerrys.

On Wednesday, the national Dutch police force Politie announced it had arrested four suspects on suspicion of money laundering. But more specifically, the group, and especially two main suspects, were allegedly involved in the sale of customised BlackBerry and Android devices.

The sale of these devices is not illegal—they may come pre-loaded with clients for encrypted email, or have the microphone or camera removed for extra security—but over the years organized crime has used these sort of phones from similar companies.

The suspects include three men from Amsterdam, aged 51, 66, and 34, as well as a 24-year-old man from Almere, just east of Amsterdam. The arrests concern the phone brand "PGP Safe."

"The first PGP-provider which only works with products with the "Highest Grade Encryption" qualification. Therefore, we guarantee the privacy that you expect," PGP Safe's website reads. The company uses a subscription based model, with customers paying for 12 month licenses to use PGP Safe's communication services, and according to the Politie announcement, customers typically pay 1,200 Euros each. Most sales took place in cash on public roads, Politie claims.

PGP Safe did not respond to a request for comment.

Politie says authorities have seized a house worth 600,000 Euros from one of the suspects, as well as a "mansion" with an estimated value of 1.6 million Euros. Investigators have also seized around two million Euros in cash, thirteen vehicles, and hundreds of cell phones.

In 2014 similar devices from a company called Phantom were linked to the murder of a Hells Angel biker in Australia. Since 2014, 34 Dutch investigations, including those involving attempted assassinations and international drug trafficking, have involved PGP phones, according to Politie.

"Police and prosecutors have evidence that the main suspects knew their products and services primarily used by criminals for such offenses," the Politie announcement reads.

But this isn't the only encrypted phone company Dutch investigators have targeted. In April of last year, Politie announced it had arrested the owner of Ennetcom, and in March said it had decrypted messages stored on the seized Ennetcom server.

These companies don't only face the authorities. Last month, someone dumped sensitive customer data from a similar company called Ciphr online.