Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Prosecutors drop Montreal Mafia cases in Project Clemenza

Crown lawyers have walked away from charges against 35 associates of the Montreal Mafia. The development is a setback for a large prosecution, but it allows federal authorities to avoid questions about police surveillance gear.

Criminal defence lawyers raised a litany of questions about how the RCMP got inside their client's smartphones. The suspects had been trying to escape scrutiny by using multiple BlackBerrys not in their own names to send each other encoded messages. The Crown resisted disclosing the methods.
The Quebec Superior Court rejected the Crown’s claim that police were not legally required to reveal the techniques. That led to the first ever public disclosures that Canadian police were using machines called IMSI catchers that imitate cellphone towers and can trick smartphones in a targeted area into giving up information that identifies the devices.
Police obtained a judicially authorized “assistance order” in 2011 that required BlackBerry Ltd to enter into a kind of a partnership with the RCMP. Copies of messages the suspects had sent via their phones believing they were secure were relayed to authorities as they transited the company’s corporate servers. Police unscrambled the messages with a global decryption key.

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