Former VTB Capital Plc banker Konstantin Vishnyak, who removed WhatsApp from his phone while he was put under surveillance for an insider-trading investigation, has been acquitted free by London jury. Vishnyak was told to submit his two iPhones to the police when he got arrested. But just before he handed over his iPhones he deleted WhatsApp along with all traces of the chats.
Vishnyak had to admit that he had intentionally deleted WhatsApp from his phone and was charged with destroying documents that could have served as evidence. But two years later, he now walks free as just deleting WhatsApp can’t be the basis for charging a man with insider-trading. With little to no evidence against Vishnyak, that he was passing on information over WhatsApp, the police had to let him go.
“If individuals are smart enough to use Whatsapp or Signal and then delete communications, it becomes very difficult to prosecute,” said Tim Thomas, who formerly worked at the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) said in a report by Bloomberg.
As per the report by Bloomberg, Vishnyak said he deleted WhatsApp “to keep his friendship with one of the most wanted men in Britain a secret.” “I was deleting my private information. This has nothing to do with shares,” the report quoted him.
Vishnyak argued that the reason for deleting WhatsApp was just to keep his chats private, which according to him were far more embarrassing and had nothing to do with the insider-trading case. He simply did not want his personal chats and connections with people unrelated to the case become a political issue and attract media attention with the police going through each and every WhatsApp chat minutely.
If a phone with WhatsApp chats and chat backups is handed over to the police, it becomes easy to trace and retrieve chats and backups. However, if the WhatsApp account is deleted entirely after deleting all chat backups first, then there is very little scope to retrieve anything as even if a new WhatsApp account is created with the same phone number, it is as good as new.
Also, as the backup files are not protected by WhatsApp’s end-to-end encryption, these can be easily accessed by the police once they seize a mobile phone. Deleting backups files on Google Drive or iCloud makes it all the more difficult for law enforcement agencies to track messages.
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