ENCROCHAT HACK: £1.6m found hidden inside bed - cash confiscated as court disclosure row continues


MORE than £1.6m of cash was found hidden inside a bed (above) during the National Crime Agency (NCA) Operation Venetic into suspected users of the encrypted Encrochat mobile phone communication system.

The NCA has now won a forfeiture order over the money, meaning it will go into the public purse

On June 13 last year officers working as part of Operation Venetic raided a flat in Kenelm Road, Sutton Coldfield, near Birmingham, allegedly being used by an organised crime group.

An NCA spokesman said: "Inside a double divan bed was £1,656,040 in cash.

"On the left side of the bed the cash had been counted and on the right of the bed were bags of uncounted cash.

"The bags were written on with dates and names of EncroChat handles - users’ nicknames.

"Also inside the bag were professional electronic cash counting machines, a ledger showing cash collection records, digital scales, a heat sealing machine and plastic pouches likely to have been used sealing one kilogramme blocks of drugs."

Two men aged 45 have been arrested as part of the investigation and released under investigation.

And a man aged 37 is wanted as part of the inquiry.

Officers found two kilogrammes of cocaine inside his car and £56,000 in his wardrobe when they searched his home.

HAUL: The huge amount of cash inside the bed (NCA)

NCA operations manager Rick MacKenzie said: “The recovery of this money is excellent news for the public purse and crucially deprives an organised crime group of a lot of cash.

“That money can no longer be used to reinvest in more offending. Our investigation continues.”

The uncontested forfeiture order was granted on Friday at Birmingham Magistrates’ Court.

Last April Dutch and French 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. It led to hundreds of raids, arrests and seizures of drugs, cash and firearms across the UK in a series of unconnected operations. Encrochat shut itself down when it discovered the hack in June. The NCA is leading the whole Operation Venetic investigation which is said to have led to more than 1,500 arrests. The total number of charges is not know.

Several defendants in prosecutions have asked for preparatory hearings to get further prosecution disclosures and look at issues such as how the hack was done and if it were lawful and whether real time messages were "live intercepts" which are not admissible in British courts.

Defence lawyers also want access to all raw date from the devices rather than extracts selected by the prosecution. One case, involving about 15 people, which cannot be identified was back in court briefly today and the CPS said it would make further disclosures - it was adjourned until next month.