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Huge haul of drugs, cash and firearms seized after criminal chat network cracked

PUBLISHED: 17:30 02 July 2020 | UPDATED: 10:00 03 July 2020

Bags of cash were seized in police raids across eastern England  Picture: ESSEX POLICE

Bags of cash were seized in police raids across eastern England Picture: ESSEX POLICE

ESSEX POLICE

Hundreds of kilos of class A drugs have been seized, along with millions of pounds in cash and firearms, during police raids across eastern England as part of the UK’s biggest ever law enforcement operation.

Class A drugs which were seized Picture: ESSEX POLICEClass A drugs which were seized Picture: ESSEX POLICE

Since April, more than 350kg of cocaine, £2.5million in cash and nine guns have been seized in a series of operations by the Eastern Regional Special Operations Units (ERSOU) and police forces in the east.

The operations across the eastern region, which targeted prominent criminals involved in serious and organised crime, also saw 46 arrests in 55 separate investigations.

Essex Police said more than £21m worth of class A drugs and £1.85 million in cash were seized in the county as part of the international operation.

Police and the National Crime Agency (NCA) made the breakthrough after the takedown of a bespoke encrypted global communication service used exclusively by criminals.

The operation was the UK's biggest Picture: ESSEX POLICEThe operation was the UK's biggest Picture: ESSEX POLICE

EncroChat was one of the largest providers of encrypted communications and offered a secure mobile phone instant messaging service, but an international law enforcement team cracked the company’s encryption.

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The intelligence allowed investigators to understand the illicit activity of people using the system and showed the scale of criminal businesses operating across multiple countries.

Simon Parkes, detective chief superintendent from ERSOU, said: “This is perhaps the most important law enforcement operation to take place in the Eastern region. The results are not just significant in terms of the cash, drugs and guns seized, but also represent a huge step forward in disrupting the operations of criminal gangs in our communities.

The operation in the east also saw 46 arrests in 55 separate investigations Picture: ESSEX POLICEThe operation in the east also saw 46 arrests in 55 separate investigations Picture: ESSEX POLICE

“Until now, some criminals have been able to function below the radar using the Encrochat system. This gave them means of communicating between each other which they thought were safe. They thought they were evading law enforcement but this same technology is now being used directly against them.

“These results are a testament to the dedication and relentless work of intelligence professionals, covert officers and investigators from ERSOU and the police forces across the east of England. This side of policing is seldom seen by the public but throughout the UK Coronavirus lockdown they have worked tirelessly to apprehend these dangerous individuals. I’d like to praise them for their extraordinary work over the last few months.”

Suffolk Constabulary Chief Constable Steve Jupp, who is the National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for serious organised crime, said: “This unique operation has specifically focused on those thought to be involved in the highest levels of organised crime and drugs supply across the UK.

“I want to emphasise that this work is the culmination of meticulous planning to tackle the most serious and organised crime groups that have been working in our communities.

“Serious organised crime is complex but working together with our Regional Organised Crimes Units and the National Crime Agency we have achieved an unparalleled victory against the kingpin criminals whose criminal activity and violence intimidates and exploits the most vulnerable.

“By dismantling these groups, we have saved countless lives and protected communities across the UK.”


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