EncroChat dealer who supplied £10m of drugs including 'Jaguar' cocaine gets 12 years in jail
A MAN has been jailed for 12 years after he admitted using an EncroChat encrypted phone to supply more than £10 million worth of drugs.
Lee Dunn, 42, of Alexandra Road, Felixstowe, Suffolk, was arrested after police intercepted messages on the encrypted platform Encrochat. The messages showed him arranging deals of cocaine and cannabis during a six week period from March to June 2020.
Each deal saw kilograms of drugs handed over at a time. In total Dunn had a role in the supply of approximately 23 kilograms of cocaine, and almost 800 kilograms of cannabis. The drugs had a combined value of more than £10 million.
The investigation was part of Operation Venetic, the UK’s biggest ever law enforcement operation, which in spring 2020 saw data uncovered following the seizure of servers linked to the Encrochat platform – an encrypted tool used by large numbers of criminals to communicate with each other. This allowed investigators to view messages and other media sent between users as they discussed large-scale criminality such as the movement of drugs and weapons.
Using this data, detectives from the Eastern Region Special Operations Unit (ERSOU) were able to establish that Dunn (above) was behind one of the handles on the system, uncovering conversations between him and various other users relating to the distribution of cocaine and cannabis.
Dunn pleaded guilty to conspiring to supply cocaine and conspiring to supply cannabis in March, and was sentenced today (Thursday) at Ipswich Crown Court to a total of 12 years and eight months.
Detective Inspector Ian Mawdesley from ERSOU, said: “Dunn ran a large scale drugs dealing operation across the eastern region, organising the distribution of millions of pounds worth of Class A and Class B drugs for onward sale.
“The supply of such drugs is inextricably linked to many different crime types, all of which can have a serious impact on those in our local communities, which is why it’s vital we continue to use our specialist tactics to uncover these groups and put those responsible behind bars.
“We hope that this sends a strong message to those operating at the higher echelons of the drug dealing world that there is no place to hide and you will face the consequences of your actions.”
The NCA launched Operation Venetic after the hack in April 2020. 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.