ENCROCHAT CORRUPTION ARRESTS: Met officer and Cheshire Police staff arrested in separate probes
EXCLUSIVE: A POLICE employee has been arrested on suspicion of leaking information about the country's biggest ever operation against organised crime networks.
The female civilian member of police staff is suspected of taking payments from a businessman under investigation by Operation Venetic, the National Crime Agency (NCA) investigation into the use of the Encrochat encrypted phone system by suspected drugs and firearms trafficking and money launderers.
The Cheshire Police employee was arrested as was a suspected drug runner also being investigated by the NCA.
The businessman, who is close to reality TV stars, including some from The Only Way is Essex, and another woman, who were being investigated by the NCA, were also arrested as part of the same probe.
A source said: "They were arrested and released pending further investigation.
"(The businessman) is now in his Dubai penthouse, refusing to come back, but all his assets are frozen in the UK, but he is still running his business.
"He has a lot of connections with celebrities, a lot of the TOWIE lot.
"The woman in the police was passing information on the Encrochat investigation to him. She was caught with a drug runner who had cash in a plastic bag."
ARRESTED: The NCA and IOPC have investigated corruption in Cheshire Police (NCA)
An NCA spokeswoman confirmed its investigation into the suspects was underway and it was being considered if charges could be brought.
Cheshire Police said it was an "NCA criminal investigation" and referred us to the Independent Office of Police Conduct (IOPC), which it passed the case to.
An IOPC spokesman said: "We can confirm we received a referral from Cheshire Constabulary, following which we decided this should be an IOPC directed investigation.
"As part of that investigation, one member of staff from the force was arrested in June 2020 for allegations of misconduct in public office.
"Three members of the public were also arrested on suspicion of aiding and abetting.
"They have all been released under investigation. That investigation is complete and the matter has been referred to the CPS to consider whether prosecutions should follow.”
In a separate Encrochat case, a Met Police officer, who was arrested by her own force, remains under criminal and professional standards investigation.
The WPC, aged in her 40s, was arrested alongside her husband and another man, aged in his 20s, on suspicion of conspiracy to supply class A drugs after a search warrant was executed at an address in north London last June.
The husband was subsequently charged with conspiracy to supply class A drugs and an offence under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
A Met Police spokesman said: "The woman is a serving MPS officer. She has been suspended from duties while enquiries are ongoing. She was served a notice in July informing her she is under investigation by the Met’s Directorate of Professional Standards. Her and the man in his 20s have both been released under investigation."
The officer declined to comment on her arrest and suspension when approached.
In April French and Dutch investigators broke through the encryption of the supposedly secure Encrochat encrypted phone communication platform which was being used by around 50,000 people worldwide, including about 9,000 in the UK.
They allowed police forces across Europe, including in the UK, access to previously sent and new real time messaging between suspected organised crime groups.
Police across the country, led by the NCA have arrested more than 1,000 people under Operation Venetic, and several hundred have been charged and remanded in custody to await trial.
Trials have been delayed by a number of legal challenges by defence lawyers about the admissibility of the live evidence, which is not usually allowed in British Courts.
The first challenge was rejected by a judge, who said the evidence was admissible, but the case is going to the Court of Appeal, delaying many of the prosecutions.
Some prosecutions are based just on Encrochat message evidence even if the defendant was not found in possession of the device in question.
In at least one case the prosecution collapsed after the defence successfully argued the CPS had failed to prove the defendant was the user of the device and another suspect had a charge withdrawn on similar grounds.