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Encrypted Phone Company Helped Plan Crime Blogger’s Murder, Cops and Source Say

MPC, an encrypted phone company Motherboard revealed as being created by organised crime, "put him on a plate for the Moroccans to pull the trigger".

by Joseph Cox
25 October 2019, 7:52am

Image: Cathryn Virginia

This article originally appeared on VICE US.

Dutch police announced Tuesday that Christopher Hughes, an employee of an encrypted phone company mentioned in a Motherboard investigation Tuesday, is wanted in connection with the murder of Martin Kok, a criminal turned blogger who was shot to death outside an Amsterdam sex club in December 2016.

Earlier Tuesday, before the police announcement, Motherboard revealed that the two on-the-run kingpins of a highly sophisticated drugs and weapon trafficking group were the secret creators of encrypted phone company MPC. James and Barrie Gillespie, known in crime circles as The Brothers, are the primary targets of a complex, international investigation involving hundreds of officers called Operation Escalade. The Gillespie brothers were ultimately in charge of MPC.

"MPC set up Martin Kok, the Dutch journalist, to have him killed in a well planned op," a source with knowledge of MPC, and who provided many of the details in Motherboard's original investigation that were later corroborated by law enforcement officials, said. Motherboard granted the source anonymity to protect them from retaliation.

Do you know anything else about MPC or the encrypted phone industry? We'd love to hear from you. Using a non-work phone or computer, you can contact Joseph Cox securely on Signal on +44 20 8133 5190, Wickr on josephcox, OTR chat on jfcox@jabber.ccc.de, or email joseph.cox@vice.com.

That lines up with what Dutch police said after the publication of Motherboard's investigation. On Opsporing Verzocht, a TV program that is a collaboration between a Dutch broadcaster and the country's authorities, a law enforcement official said, "We are considering that he may have been used to entrap Kok," referring to MPC's Hughes.

"We assume he knew what was coming and is thus involved in the murder," the official added.

Dutch police have offered 5,000 Euros for information on Hughes's location. A European arrest warrant had already been issued against Hughes as well as The Brothers and other associates.

On his own website, Kok would write about the criminal underworld, including Moroccan organized crime figures with connections to The Brothers who were particularly annoyed at the coverage, the source added. (Ridouan Taghi, a Morrocan gang leader allegedly linked to the killing is also on the run.)

The Brothers arranged a scheme to build trust with Kok, paying him to run MPC adverts on his website, the source said. MPC paid Kok around 13,000 Euros to keep him wanting to meet with the company, and eventually, MPC "put him on a plate for the Moroccans to pull the trigger," the source said.

On the day he was murdered, Kok met with MPC's Hughes and then traveled to Boccacio, the sex club on the outskirts of Amsterdam. When Kok entered his Volkswagen Polo, a hooded figure jumped from the bushes and shot into the vehicle, killing Kok. Hughes then walked away from the scene, according to CCTV footage previously published by the Dutch police.

At the time, authorities detained Hughes but he was released a short time later.

Tagged:
crime
encryption
blackberry
android
mpc
escalade
going dark
end to end encryption
encrypted phone