Messaging App Unhinges Plan to Smuggle Cocaine Across Atlantic Ocean in Submarine

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According to the Detroit News, a messaging app used by crime lords from around the globe to encrypt messages spoiled a drug kingpin's plan to build a submarine to smuggle cocaine across the Atlantic ocean. Information was released ten months after the arrest of Ylli Didani, 44, about a ploy to smuggle cocaine overseas. 

After a six-year investigation, which crossed over into five continents, included fifteen countries, and employed high-tech devices, Didani is now facing federal prosecution. According to interviews and court records, federal agents built a cause against the drug dealer over a long period. 

A global effort by prosecutors is now underway to secure evidence against Didani. Prosecutors worked with foreign officials to ensure Didani did not walk away free. 

Didani used Sky ECC's encrypted messaging app to accumulate a drug empire worth over $115 million. Federal investigators managed to receive pictures of Sky ECC text messages between Didani and co-conspirators, even though the messages were supposed to self-destruct, said, prosecutors.

Federal agents are trying to obtain thousands of Sky ECC communications made in France concerning Didani. Feds are also waiting on assistance from other foreign countries involved in the investigation. 

“Ylli is a family man who is presumed innocent,” said his defense lawyer, Wade Fink, to The News. “Remember, it is always easier for prosecutors to make allegations on paper than it is to substantiate and prove those allegations in a courtroom. And it is there, in a court of law, where we will defend our client.”

According to prosecutors, Didani's drug operation had been in Metro Detroit since 2016. Columbia, Ecuador, Mexico, Canada, Chile, Albania, Turkey, Brazil, Germany, Dominican Republic, United Arab Emirates, Belgium, Spain, and the Netherlands were involved. 

By the summer of 2016, prosecutors said, Didani's drug ring had accumulated large sums of money. According to Brandon Leach, a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration task force officer,  Dandi text messages stating his need to find someone to help secretly transfer $111.5 million from a Deutsche Bank in Frankfurt, Germany, to a bank in Dubai.

Recent details have emerged from prosecutors about evidence allegedly linking Didani to drug dealing.   

The messaging app was used to facilitate “large cocaine shipments and the return of narcotics proceeds,” wrote the prosecutors.

According to prosecutors, Didani and his drug ring faced problems in 2019 and 2020. A large amount of cocaine was found hidden in a banana cargo ship in the Netherlands. Investigators took over 3,400 kilograms of cocaine valued at more than $100 million.

Counterparts in France received an official request by Justice Department officials to get Sky ECC messages seized by European investigators. The is no information as to how the messages were obtained. 

Police officials in France, Belgium, and the Netherlands discontinued the network in early March 2021 after hacking into Sky ECC.

Hundreds of raids and over 80 arrests coincided with the network shutdown. Over a billion messages were intercepted, and more than 17 tons of cocaine were seized during a two-year investigation by law enforcement. 

According to the government in 2018, Didani and his financier, Marty Tibbitts, a telecommunications CEO from Grosse Pointe Park, planned to build a submarine intended to attach itself, using magnets to ocean freighters. 

“The drone was intended to be remotely operated and could release from the vessel at the request of the operator and would send up a GPS location beacon to identify its current location,” wrote the officer in the criminal case against Didani.

Communications between Tibbitts and Didani, between May 2016 to June 2018, alleged that a company was hired to build the submarine's prototype. The submarine development was halted in 2018 after Tibbitts,50, died in a plane crash. 

Didani flew to several countries after Tibbitts death to look for new financiers, said investigators. 


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