Mafia threat to gangster who unwittingly distributed app on behalf of FBI

The Anom app was presented as a way for criminals to send encrypted messages

Australia's most-wanted fugitive, who unwittingly helped police build cases against more than 200 suspected criminals in that country alone, has been urged to turn himself in rather than risk being killed by rival gangsters.

Hakan Ayik, who is believed to be hiding in Turkey, has been on the run and living outside of Australia for at least a decade. He is suspected of being a major player in Australia's illegal narcotics trade.

Mr Ayik unknowingly distributed an FBI Trojan horse app to his associates, a messaging app called Anom, which allowed Australian Federal Police and the FBI to view tens of thousands of messages from suspected criminals.

The operation has led to 224 arrests in Australia and the seizure of 3.7 tonnes of drugs, 104 weapons and $35 million in cash.

Australian authorities said up to 21 murders had been prevented in the country because of intelligence gathered from the app, including hits on members of two major mob families.

Mr Ayik was given the device by undercover agents and recommended the app to his associates. It was presented as a way for criminals to send encrypted messages.

The app was sold on the black market and people could only gain access if they were referred through an existing criminal user or had a distributor who could vouch for them.

On Tuesday, Australian Federal Police Commissioner Reece Kershaw issued a public warning to Mr Ayik that he is now a marked man and should turn himself in to Australian authorities immediately.

“Given the threat he faces, he's best off handing himself into us as soon as he can. He was one of the co-ordinators of this particular device, so he's essentially set up his own colleagues,” he said.

Mr Ayik is believed to be living in Turkey after evading an Interpol arrest warrant in 2010.

From 2008 to 2010, Operation Hoffman allowed authorities to tackle a drug dealing network throughout Australia, in the New South Wales Police and prison system, in the country's ports, and overseas.

The inquiry, led by the Australian Crime Commission with crucial contributions from the New South Wales and West Australian police, the Australian Federal Police, the NSW Crime Commission and the nation's anti-money laundering agency, Austrac, revealed the extent of organised crime in Australia and the difficulty authorities faced in fighting globalised gangsters.

Mr Ayik became known as the "Facebook gangster" because of his fondness for self-promotion. He posted gym photos and travel videos showing him in Turkey and Hong Kong.

He also showed himself taking a helicopter ride, watching a Formula One Grand Prix and firing a semi-automatic pistol at a shooting range.

Another video showed him travelling to Hong Kong with Daux Ngakuru, a senior figure in Sydney's Comanchero outlaw biker gang.

Mr Ayik also posted a photograph of himself on this trip with Mark Ho, a Chinese mob operative linked to the Triads, who served a prison stint in Australia in 2001 for trafficking heroin.

An investigation by The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and 60 Minutesthis month tracked Mr Ayik down and found that he owned a hotel in Istanbul and other high-end properties. They reported he had changed his name and changed his appearance with plastic surgery.

The report said: “Whatever his name, and regardless of his glamorous new life, Australian police are still pressing to arrest and extradite the man once known as the Facebook gangster."

Following the Anom sting, Mr Ayik has not only attracted the attention of Interpol – having been on their most wanted list since 2010 – but also organised criminals across Australia and perhaps further afield.

Updated: June 8, 2021 10:29 PM

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