ENCROCHAT HACK: Drug importer who tried to destroy Encro device has he fled NCA pleads guilty


A MAN who used the encrypted phone network EncroChat to import cocaine worth £1.6m into the UK has pleaded guilty.

Ibraheem Abdullah, 38, was arrested by National Crime Agency officers (NCA) on April 17 2020 when 20 kilos of high purity cocaine, hidden in boxes of mobile phone accessories, was seized at a joiners yard in the Middleton area.

Abdullah, also known as Dwaine George, attempted to escape when he saw NCA and Greater Manchester Police officers, who had just entered the yard in Wade Street.

He tried to destroy two mobile phones during the subsequent chase on foot - by throwing one against a wall and dropping another into the nearby Wince Brook - but was arrested minutes later.

Electronic scales and a quantity of small plastic bags were recovered during a subsequent search of his home address in Mariman Drive, Manchester.

The NCA investigation found that the device Abdullah had thrown against the wall was crucial, as it was the EncroChat phone he used to arrange the shipment under his Encro handle ‘Tenderpasta’

The drugs had been posted from the Netherlands and tests showed that they had a purity of between 70 and 73 per cent. They would have had an estimated street value of £1.6 million once cut.

On April 7 2020, ‘Tenderpasta’ exchanged messages with the EncroChat handle ‘Maxbro’, and identified the joiner’s yard as the best drop off location. He also sent a photo of the location.

Analysis of billing for numbers used by Abdullah show that around the time of these messages, his phones were using cell masts near the joiners yard.

Other Encrochat messages with a contact using the handle ‘Flyinghourse’ showed that Abdullah was trying to arrange an onward buyer for the cocaine, with the two individuals agreeing a sale price of £37,500 per kilo.

Abdullah appeared at Manchester City Crown Court on Tuesday, November 9 where he admitted a charge of conspiracy to import Class A drugs.

He is due to be sentenced at the same court on December 17.

NCA Operations Manager Helen Murphy said: “Like many other users of EncroChat, Abdullah will have mistakenly thought that he could traffic drugs with impunity.

“The NCA works with partners across the UK to ensure there are no safe spaces for serious and organised criminals, including those who seek to profit from a class A drugs trade which fuels violence and exploitation in our communities.”

Scores of Encrochat prosecutions are going through court after French and Dutch investigators hacked into the encrypted system last year and allowed UK police forces access to historic and real-time messages.

Many prosecutions are based on messages alone and the admissibility of the evidence in British courts is being contested in a number of cases.