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Canadian CEO pleads guilty in US to helping drug cartels

[WASHINGTON] The chief executive of a Vancouver-based company pleaded guilty on Tuesday to facilitating international narcotics traffic by supplying drug cartels with encrypted communications devices, the US Justice Department said.

Secure communications devices supplied by Vincent Ramos, chief executive of Phantom Secure, and four co-conspirators helped traffickers distribute cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine in the United States, Australia, Mexico, Canada, Thailand and Europe, the Justice Department said in a statement.

Ramos admitted that at least 450kg of cocaine were distributed using Phantom Secure devices, the statement said, and he agreed to forfeit US$80 million and other assets as part of the guilty plea.

When Ramos was arrested in Seattle in March, the Justice Department said it was the first time the US government had targeted a company and its principals for providing criminals with the technology to evade law enforcement while committing transnational drug trafficking.

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Ramos is scheduled to be sentenced in US District Court in San Diego on Dec 17. The racketeering conspiracy charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, the statement said.

The four co-conspirators remain at large, it said. 

REUTERS