Guns and drugs seized in Yorkshire after police crack crime chat network

More than 70 arrests have been made and £3m in cash seized across Yorkshire and the Humber after police cracked a crime chat network.

By Joe Cooper
Thursday, 2nd July 2020, 3:42 pm

Ten firearms and more than 100kg of cocaine were also seized in the county after the National Crime Agency (NCA) intercepted and decoded messages on EncroChat, an encrypted global communication service used exclusively by criminals.

Seven EncroChat devices were seized in Yorkshire.

The NCA says the Europe-wide operation, which lasted over three months and involved police forces across the UK, has had the biggest impact on organised crime gangs it has ever seen.

Sign up to our daily The Scarborough News Today newsletter

More than 70 arrests have been made and 3m in cash seized across Yorkshire (Photo: WYP)

Officers are said to have prevented people being murdered by secretly monitoring planned attacks on the service.

The NCA has been working with international law enforcement agencies to target EncroChat since 2016.

Two months ago police in France and the Netherlands infiltrated the platform. The data harvested was shared via Europol.

The police have been monitoring their every move since then under Operation Venetic – the UK law enforcement response.

The EncroChat servers have now been shut down.

Yorkshire case studies

As part of Operation Replay-Mike, officers stopped a motor vehicle travelling in Sheffield on May 6 this year.

The 36-year-old driver was arrested and tw suitcases that contained £1.1 million were found in his vehicle.

His home address was searched and an additional £150,000, two counting machines and mobile phones were seized.

He was charged with money laundering, among other offences, and was remanded into custody.

On June 3 of this year, officers stopped a vehicle on the M1, Wakefield.

The driver, a 23-year-old man, was arrested and £150,000 seized.

Further police raids then resulted in £20,000, four Rolex watches, one Chanel watch and two Breitling watches being seized.

NCA Director of Investigations Nikki Holland, said: “The infiltration of this command and control communication platform for the UK’s criminal marketplace is like having an inside person in every top organised crime group in the country.

“This is the broadest and deepest ever UK operation into serious organised crime.

“Together we’ve protected the public by arresting middle-tier criminals and the kingpins, the so-called iconic untouchables who have evaded law enforcement for years, and now we have the evidence to prosecute them.

“The NCA plays a key role in international efforts to combat encrypted comms.

"I’d say to any criminal who uses an encrypted phone, you should be very, very worried.”

Temporary Assistant Chief Constable Osman Khan of West Yorkshire Police, with responsibility for the Yorkshire and the Humber Region, said: “This operation has been of an unprecedented scale and has landed a devastating blow to those involved in serious and organised crime across the Yorkshire and the Humber Region.

“Serious and organised crime can have a terrible impact on the local communities we serve – and nationally is estimated to cost the UK economy £billions every year.

“This shows people involved in this type of illegal activity that their actions will not be tolerated as the full force of UK law enforcement is against them.

“An incredible amount of work has gone into this operation from officers and staff and it was an excellent collaboration between different forces and other law enforcement partners.”

Home Secretary Priti Patel said: “This operation demonstrates that criminals will not get away with using encrypted devices to plot vile crimes under the radar.

“The NCA’s relentless targeting of these gangs has helped to keep us all safe. I congratulate them and law enforcement partners on this significant achievement.

“I will continue working closely with the NCA and others to tackle the use of such devices – giving them the resources, powers and tools they need to keep our country safe.”