Albanian drug supplier got spooked about Encrochat security but used it again before getting caught


AN ALBANIAN drug supplier who stopped using the encrypted messaging phone system Encrochat after getting spooked about it security and law enforcement activity was jailed for 15 years after he was caught after using it again.

Ervin Patru, 42, from Maryatt Avenue, Harrow, north-west London, admitted being in a conspiracy to supply cocaine and launder thousands of pounds.

Patru, originally from Albania, was arrested at his home in December 2020.

The investigation was launched after detectives analysed messages shared by Patru on EncroChat – the encrypted messaging platform that was hacked into by French and Dutch police in April 2020.

Using the handle ‘veteranbeer’, Patru exchanged 14,000 lines of messages about selling Class A drugs.

Cocaine that was seized was marked with a kangaroo and a Mercedes logo.

The investigation was conducted by the Organised Crime Partnership (OCP), a joint partnership between the National Crime Agency (NCA) the Metropolitan Police.

An OCP spokesman said: "In the messages Patru displays nervousness over law-enforcement activity and tells associates he was ‘frightened’ into briefly ceasing his communications.

"Messages were also found linking Patru to a previous OCP arrest, during which an Albanian national was found with 4 kilos of cocaine following a high-speed police chase.

"The ‘veteranbeer’ alias speaks of four ‘packets of ours’ which ‘got seized’ and expresses relief that a ‘fallen’ associate did not ‘talk’ and ‘**** everything up’."

Patru was charged on December 11 2020 with Class A drug supply and money laundering offences and remanded in custody.

He pleaded guilty to all charges and was sentenced yesterday, June 22, at Harrow Crown Court to 15 years in prison.

OCP Operations Manager Matt McMillan said: “Disrupting the communications between criminals on digital platforms is a crucial part of preventing illegal drugs from reaching streets in the UK.

“The apprehensive tone of Patru’s messages indicates the success of our collective efforts to disrupt the trade in class A drugs, which fuels violence and exploitation.

“This investigation is yet another example of the NCA and Met Police working together to protect the public.”

It is estimated that Encrochat was being used by around 50,000 people worldwide, including about 9,000 in the UK.

French and Dutch investigators allowed the NCA access to the communications of the UK users, leading to Operation Venetic which saw more than 1,500 people arrested and hundreds charged.

Encrochat shut itself down when it discovered the hack in June 2020.

While many people have pleaded guilty in the UK, several have launched ongoing legal challenges about the admissibility of the Encrochat evidence.