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ENCROCHAT EXCLUSIVE: Serbian admits being involved in trying to import cocaine on cruise ship via Ri

THE Encrochat hack has claimed its first two scalps in the UK after two men charged under Operation Venetic pleaded guilty to drug charges.

Milos Bigovic, 29, from Pozarevac, in Serbia, pleaded guilty at Winchester Crown Court on Friday to one count of being concerned in the fraudulent evasion of the prohibition in the importation of a class A drug.

Paul Farrell, 40, of no fixed address, pleaded guilty to a lesser offence of possession of a class A drug at the same court at the same hearing.

The pair were charged after being arrested following intelligence obtained by the National Crime Agency (NCA) which was monitoring in real time the phone communications of criminals using the supposedly secure Encrochat encrypted phone system.

The NCA and police forces across the country were given covert access to the phone system after French and Dutch law enforcement computer experts hacked into it in April.

Bigovic was arrested on April 25 as he attempted to import cocaine hydrochloride from South America into the south of England on a cruise ship liner on the River Solent in Hampshire.

Around 60,000 criminal users of Encrochat were found worldwide with 10,000 in the UK.

There have been at least 750 arrested in the UK since April under Operation Venetic and about 250 charged.

The guilty pleas are a result for the NCA as lawyers representing several other people charged with the offences have argued intelligence gathered from Encrochat phones should be inadmissible in court, with a test case set for November.

Encrochat shut down its service after it became aware users were being monitored.

Three others charged with drug offences in connection with the arrest of Bigovic and Farrell have pleaded not guilty and await trial.

The pair are likely to be sentenced at the conclusion of their trial.

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