ENCROCHAT HACK EXCLUSIVE: Former Leeds United footballer Paul Shepherd charged with drug offences
A FORMER Leeds United professional football player, who made the England youth squad, has been charged with possession of a firearm and possession of class A drugs following the Encrochat hack. Paul Shepherd, 42, from Leeds, (pictured above) played for the club as a full back between 1995 and 1999. He was a part of the England squad at the 1997 FIFA World Youth Championship. Shepherd was arrested on April 14 after class A drugs were allegedly found in a car he was in during a stop by West Yorkshire Police.
Officers who later searched a property recovered two firearms – a Glock semi-automatic pistol and a Howa bolt-action rifle – as well as 200 rounds of ammunition and small quantities of cannabis and crack cocaine. Shepherd was charged with the possession of a firearm and class A drugs and was remanded in custody. He is due to stand trial at Leeds Crown Court in October. After retiring from the sport Shepherd became a director and member of the Chapel Allerton Snooker and Social Club in Leeds. He was interviewed by Sky Sports there about his former career in 2018. Shepherd stood down as a director on April 30, according to a resignation filed with Companies House.
The arrest was as part of Operation Venetic, which saw hundreds of people arrested across the UK after an encrypted phone messaging system, suspected of being used by thousands of organised criminals, was cracked by law enforcement investigators.
Shepherd was among at least 746 people arrested by police forces up and down the country, in what has been described as the UK's biggest ever operation against organised crime, after French and Dutch police hacked the Encrochat phone messaging service.
The UK-wide Operation Venetic began in April after the encrypted phone system was busted.
Around 60,000 suspected criminals were found to be using the specialist Encrochat system worldwide, with 10,000 said to be based in the UK.
European investigators allowed the National Crime Agency (NCA) and British police forces to monitor the exchange of messages in real time, allowing for large numbers of seizures of drugs and firearms arriving into the country and arrests of suspects.