Cyprus was back in the headlines after new court records showed how a suspected drug lord, who evaded capture on the island a decade ago, unwittingly distributed an FBI app to his associates resulting to hundreds of arrests around the world.
According to media sources, 42-year-old Hakan Ayik, an Australian national of Turkish origins, had been handed a Trojan horse device by undercover agents working for Australian law enforcement and the FBI.
Ayik, who was the first person given access to the app named An0m, apparently passed it on to every underworld figure he knew, essentially providing law enforcement access to 25 million messages detailing criminal plots.
Greek Cypriot customs officers at the checkpoint determined there was an Interpol Red Notice on Ayik, who got nervous as officials were taking their time with his documents
The FBI and its partners built the An0m system in such a way that a master key silently attached itself to every message set through the app, enabling law enforcement to decrypt and store the message as it is transmitted, while the user is completely unaware.
Based on newly unsealed court documents, the FBI had taken control of the company running the An0m app in its infancy and turned it into a wide-reaching honeypot. This essentially meant that instead of police going to a suspected criminal, a suspected criminal app user was coming to them.
After leaving Australia in 2010 for a trip to Hong Kong, Ayik sensed that Australian authorities would try to arrest him after his associates were being picked up one after the other.
Ayik, a keen bodybuilder who is also known as “the Facebook gangster,” had posted videos on his personal page which allegedly showed him driving expensive cars and partying with prostitutes.
In a particular post he was purported to have written “catch me if you can.”
He was never seen again until he surfaced in Cyprus in late October 2010, when Greek Cypriot police stopped Ayik at the Ayios Dhometios/Metehan checkpoint in west Nicosia as he was attempting to cross from the Turkish Cypriot north into the Greek Cypriot south in a car.
Details of the encounter were not fully clear but media sources said Greek Cypriot customs officers determined there was an Interpol Red Notice on Ayik, who got nervous as officials were taking their time with his documents.
Reports said Ayik finally got back into the car, which was being driven by another person, and they drove away evading capture as checkpoint officers fired warning shots.
According to Turkish Cypriot media, police in the north detained Ayik at a Kyrenia hotel about a month later, charging him with illegal entry but he managed to get released on bail.
He was also facing trial on charges related to possession of illegal performance-enhancing drugs, while reports of a possible extradition to Australia led nowhere.
Ayik is now believed to be a marked man according to media sources, keeping a low profile but also hiding in countries where there is no extradition agreement with Australia, such as Turkey.
Recent reports in foreign media have suggested links to Istanbul after an alleged photo of Ayik appeared on Instagram.
This week Australian authorities said more than 100 crime figures were detained on Tuesday as 4000 police officers from federal, state and territorial forces put Operation Ironside into effect.
Hundreds of additional suspects in 18 countries including USA, UK, Germany, and New Zealand also took place, thwarting at least 21 plots while Latin American and Asian criminal gang networks have been targeted.
Reports said FBI and partners built the An0m system in such a way that a master key silently attached itself to every message set through the app, enabling law enforcement to decrypt and store the message as it is transmitted, while the user is completely unaware.