Another high-end drug supplier who got back near top after prison release busted by EncroChat hack



ANOTHER high-end drug supplier, who already had form for similar offences, was netted during the EncroChat hack.

Maidstone dealer Mark Dinnage, who conspired to supply large amounts of class A and B drugs, was jailed for 12 years earlier this month.

Between March and June 2020, Mark Dinnage used an EncroChat encrypted mobile phone platform to direct couriers purchasing and supplying cocaine, heroin, ketamine and cannabis.

Dinnage was arrested as part of a major national probe into the use of EncroChat phones after Dutch and French police hacked into the supposedly encrypted communication system in April 2020.

Messages from UK users were passed to British police and the National Crime Agency (NCA).

The operation saw more than 1,500 arrests and scores of raids and seizures of drugs, cash and firearms across the UK in a series of unconnected operations that have led to hundreds of charges.

The Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate reviewed data concerning Dinnage’s offending and were able to prove the messages co-ordinating the movement of cash and drugs using a pseudonym, were in fact him.

The 42-year-old was arrested on September 9 2021 at his home address in Lesley Place, Maidstone and was later charged with conspiracy to supply class A drugs and conspiracy to supply class B drugs.

Dinnage pleaded guilty at Maidstone Crown Court and on Tuesday 3 May 2022, was sentenced to 12 years' imprisonment.

Detective Constable Aaron Chapman, of the Serious Organised Crime Unit, said: "Dinnage was at a high level in the crime gang that supplied considerable quantities of drugs throughout the county.

"He will have felt untouchable letting others take the risks whilst using an encrypted communication platform. His confidence was misjudged and he is now serving a prison sentence.

"We will of course be using the Proceeds of Crime Act to seek to recover cash and any other assets he has acquired through his criminal activity."

Dinnage was previously involved in a huge drugs conspiracy.

In 2015, he was also convicted of conspiracy to supply cocaine between September 2 2014 and November 20 2014 and jailed for six years.

At a subsequent proceeds of crime confiscation hearing in January 2017, it was determined Dinnage gained £202,620 from his crimes.

He was ordered to pay back £153,710 and given three months to pay, or told he would serve an additional sentence of two years and three months in prison.

During the investigation, which saw 11 others prosecuted, officers seized more than four kilograms of Class A drugs, as well as cash totalling hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Once Dinnage left prison he was able to re-establish himself at a high end of class A drug supply before only being caught through the EncroChat hack.

Essex News and Investigations has revealed other EncroChat cases, where serious offenders got out and carried on their trade. Read about the Hanna brothers (below), Patrick Ince and Matthew Harrod here.

EncroChat shut itself down two months later after details of the hack emerged. The system was being used by around 50,000 people worldwide, including about 9,000 in the UK. Police said all users were criminals to justify the hack, but small numbers of lawyers and journalists were also identified using it, leading to privacy concerns. European counterparts allowed the NCA access to historic messages and call data, but they were also able to monitor messages in real time from April to June 2020, preventing a number of murder conspiracies or violent attacks.

Both historic and real-time messages have been used in ongoing and concluded prosecutions. So-called "live-intercept" evidence is inadmissible in British courts, and it has led to a number of legal challenges from defendants, but, so far they have all been rejected with judges saying that because they were briefly stored on the devices before the messages were sent, they were stored data and not live intercepts.

Scores of people, including several top-end drug importers have already been convicted under Operation Venetic, only a small number have been acquitted or had cases collapse. However, some of the prosecutions are based on message evidence alone, with devices being attributed to the individuals charged, but defence lawyers argue that the raw data has not been disclosed to defendants and there is no continuity of evidence. One challenge mounted against the EncroChat data was lodged with the Investigatory Powers Tribunal and the ongoing case was adjourned until later this year.

Protests outside courts about the use of EncroChat evidence, that began last week as exclusively revealed by Essex News and Investigations, are set to continue next week.