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June 24, 2024

Geistmann Redux: John Robinson Investigates, Chapter Thirteen

By Ron Singer

Chapter Thirteen
Cape Town, South Africa, Monday, May 26, 2025.

On Monday morning, the FBI team got down to serious business. With the same cast that had met after Friday's incident, they reconvened in the safe room in the basement of the Embassy to hear what Patsy S.-O. had to add to what she had already said about Samir Gupta. As Robinson listened, he mentally fleshed out his second draft profile. (He still had not heard back from Baltazar or Podgorny about the first one.) This morning, Patsy was all business, and Robinson sensed that she might have been chastised for her role in Friday's opera.

"Here's what I've got so far about the man we've been calling 'Samir Gupta.' Like forty per cent of professional cybercriminals, he is above thirty-five years old. In fact, he's forty-one or -two. I'm sure that even those of you who are outside the CCTF loop" — she made eye contact with Neugeborn and Robinson — "are aware of the truism that Indian cyber-science is a legacy of colonial educational politics. 'Samir Gupta,' whose real name is Ramesh Subramanian, can be considered a poster boy for the truism." Robinson was impressed by S.-O.'s command of what must be her second or third language — and her memory, since once again she was speaking without notes, either paper or electronic. Then, he commanded himself to stop editorializing so that he would not miss any details. "After this, for ease of reference, I'll refer to Ramesh Subramanian as 'RS'

"RS was born in 1981 in a village named Asannagar Hooghly, about fifteen kilometers north of what was then Calcutta, and which, twenty years later, would become 'Kolkata.'

"Putting aside cliches like 'the black hole of ... ' and stereotypical images of mass poverty and suffering, RS was the second surviving child — several died — of parents of the Sudra caste, the second lowest. His family managed what we in the U.S. might call a general store, which was owned by a local landowner." Patsy came up for air.

"Since the Sarva Shikhsha Abhiyan reform act that brought in India's free, compulsory universal education would not be passed until 2009, RS, like millions of other gifted Indian children, would probably have fallen through the cracks, if their landlord had not noticed the boy, and paid his school fees at Calcutta's best elementary and secondary schools.

"When RS continued to excel, recognizing that he was creme de la creme, the patron helped the family navigate the country's tortuous educational bureaucracy, and the boy wound up attending the Indian Institute of Technology, or IIT, in Mumbai, then called 'Bombay.' " She made eye contact with her boss, Bob Martinez. "TMI, Chief?"

He scanned the conference tables, and replied, "Keep on truckin', Patsy. I'll watch for the glazed eyes and for anyone nodding off." Robinson thought Patsy's smile of thanks to her boss was semi-sarcastic. She continued.

"As some of you may know — Bob and Missy, anyway — India was among the world's first nations to introduce Computer Science at the university level." Robinson also knew this, and wondered whether Fred did.

"In those days, they were teaching with the old IBM 1620 server system. Anyway, it took RS about eighteen months to get his MCS degree — Masters in Computer Applications. By then, it was 1997, and he had just turned sixteen." Again, Robinson noticed Patsy making eye contact with her boss. He saw Martinez scan the table. Although no one was nodding off, he tapped his chronograph wristwatch. Patsy got the message.

"Anyway, having completed the Masters, RS skipped to a postdoc in cybercrime, which discipline was still in its infancy in India. He latched on to an outfit that was working on the world's first polymorphic virus. Indian cyber-criminals had already come a long way since the Phreakers and their primitive phone crimes."

Now Bob made a pronounced hand gesture for her to speed up.

"Anyway, by Fall, 1998, RS was basically in charge of the outfit — which called itself 'Sarious Youth Ink.' The wit of these clowns! ... " Robinson noticed Martinez's stink eye. " ... Anyway, in the early 00's, when SYI went global, RS moved to Vancouver, probably because he liked the lifestyle, and because the city was already home to so many South-Asian-born hackers — and suckers. I'll go faster now, Bob, since we're almost to terra cognita. Anyway, there was a dust-up at SYI, and RS morphed into an independent contractor. Since his name, Ramesh Subramanian — remember? — had become too hot, by then i.e. known to people like Bob and Yams ... Ms. Yamamoto — he shifted to 'Samir Gupta.'

"Among his clients was one Armande Amrouche, or Geistmann, the notorious killer/prankster that John here shot ... er, mur ... dered ... assassin ... er, kill ... extirpated."

Robinson was amused.

Martinez jumped in. "Questions or comments, people?"

Everyone spoke at once. After Bob had called for order and thanked the speaker, the questions were repeated, one by one. Robinson took careful mental notes of Santos-Oliveira's answers.

MY: "How did RS-slash-SG transition to money laundering, etc. from whatever he had been doing at SYI?"

P S-O: "Easy. Before he left SYI, he had added the title of CFO to his other one, Director of R & D. (His predecessor-CFO had just been the target of a cyber-drive-by for sticking his hand too far into the cookie jar.) RS-slash-SG was already a Dark Wallet-meister, meaning he had the m.l. drill cold. By the time he won the accounts of G., and many others, Samir had completed what was, in effect, a second post-doc, this one in International Finance. In short, he had become super-adroit at gaming the international banking system (itself a highly gamed system)."

JR: "How did he and Iosub Ceban initially hook up, Patsy?"

P S-O: "You, if anyone, should know the answer to that one, Dr. Robinson — er, John! Samir was the one who arranged two of the moves of Iosub and Elica Ceban: Hawaii to Asheville, N.C., and then to Bangor, Maine. When life in Bangor grew intolerably dull for Iosub, he got back in touch with Samir, and suggested they become partners. We have a copy of Joe's initial email, which was unencrypted. But soon after that, they went dark. Presumably, Samir schooled him fast."

FN: "Where are they now, as we speak? And how long before they move to a new safe haven?"

P S-O: "As of Friday, when the bomb blew up John's office, they were "somewhere in Africa." Not necessarily here in C.T. That was the extent of our success in penetrating Samir's anti-geolocation programs. Where are they right now? If I had to guess, I'd say either Nigeria or Somalia. Do you want to hear my reasons?"

BM: "You and I can go over those later, Patsy. But I also have a question. Have you unearthed any specific present connection between RS/SG and the PAC?"

When Patsy just shrugged, Martinez turned to Ms. Yamamoto, who also shrugged. If he had been asked, Robinson would have said, "Yes," and "Nigeria." He made a mental note to suggest to Bob that they get in touch with Festus Fakile (FOF). As he did so, he wondered whether the Bureau might want him, Robinson, to return to Nigeria, to take part in the hunt. If so, would he go?








Article © Ron Singer. All rights reserved.
Published on 2023-01-30
Image(s) are public domain.
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