Multiple arrests, jail for 100 years and cash, drugs and luxury items seized in 12 months since infiltration of EncroChat

Drugs, cash and luxury items seized along with multiple arrests and convictions made since the infiltration of EncroChat one-year ago today.

A total of 15 men have been arrested by the Serious and Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) after international authorities intercepted messages on an encrypted communications platform on Thursday 2 July 2020. 

Seven of the 15 men have already been jailed for a total of almost 100 years after pleading guilty to using EncroChat to facilitate their criminal activity. One man was sentenced to 22 years and five months after pleading guilty – one of the highest jail terms recorded in the country under Operation Venetic.

The criminal activity taking place on the encrypted device ranges from drug supply and importation to the transfer of firearms as well as multiple threats made to the lives of those associated with organised criminality.

In May 2020 EncroChat was cracked by French and Dutch authorities and led to Cheshire Constabulary being part of a large-scale investigation led by the National Crime Agency and working with the North West Regional Organised Crime Unit and the Crown Prosecution Service.

The operation also involved regional organised crime units and police forces across the country.

The EncroChat had 60,000 users worldwide and around 10,000 users in the UK. It was being used for coordinating and planning the distribution of illicit commodities, money laundering and plotting to kill rival criminals.

The phones – which have pre-loaded apps for instant messaging, the ability to make VOIP calls and a kill code which wipes them remotely have no other conventional smart phone functionality and cost around £1,500 for a six-month contract.

Detective Inspector Ian Murray, from Cheshire Constabulary’s Serious and Organised Crime Unit, said: “In the last 12 months a dedicated team of detectives have focused on pursuing individuals believed to be using the bespoke encrypted device to engage in some of the highest level of serious and organised crime.

“By monitoring and building on the intelligence we have so far arrested 15 men, seven of which have already admitted to their criminality and been jailed for almost 100 years – one sentence was recorded as being one of the highest in the country since Operation Venetic began.

“These arrests have also led to the seizure of class A and class B drugs, quantities of cash, high value cars and luxury items, which will be processed through the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA).

“This operation has been paramount in unearthing individuals within our community who were operating their criminality under the radar. Be assured that our work is continuing and no stone will be left unturned until they have all been identified and located to be dealt with by Cheshire’s Serious and Organised Crime Unit.”

Detective Superintendent Paul Denn from the North West Regional Organised Crime Unit (NWROCU) said: “Since the takedown of ‘EncroChat’ twelve months ago, our officers have continued to work together with our six North West police forces, to identify the criminals who were using the encrypted devices to carry out their illegal activity.

“Tackling serious and organised crime, and those who cause the most harm to our communities in the North West remains our top priority here at the NWROCU, and we will continue use all our specialist tactics to disrupt these dangerous offenders operating across our region.

“Since last July more than 400 people have been arrested across the North West and more than £16 million pounds in cash and 400kg of Class A and B drugs seized as part of Operation Venetic.  

“I can reassure communities across the North West that we will leave no stone unturned – we will continue to interpret, analyse and share intelligence and data to target and dismantle the most hardened criminals in our region.”

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