ENCROCHAT HACK: Encrypted phones probe claims first pub as boozer loses licence over cocaine links

A PUB at the centre of a major cocaine supply and cryptocurrency money laundering probe has had its license suspended.

The White Horse in Old Road, Harlow, Essex, was one of 18 addresses in the town that were raided on Thursday, October 8.

The police operation resulted in 19 arrests, with seven people so far charged with drugs-related offences. Among those arrested and charged with conspiracy to supply a class A drug was White Horse landlord Chris Golding, 38, at his £635,000 home in Hart Road, Harlow. The alleged gang is suspected of hiding millions of drug money in the crypto-currency after selling cocaine through numerous Bitcoin accounts to people across Essex, Suffolk, Hertfordshire and London. The arrests followed a six-month investigation before 220 officers swooped on the alleged gang members in dawn raids in Essex and Suffolk.

An Essex Police spokesman said: "Essex Police’s licensing team applied to Harlow Council for a summary review of the pub’s premises licence, which was considered by the council’s licensing sub-committee on Tuesday, October 13. "Members suspended The White Horse’s licence with immediate effect until a full review hearing takes place. "They also determined that the designated premises supervisor (Mr Golding) be removed from the premises with immediate effect." The licence will remain suspended until a full hearing takes place, which is due to be held before 9 November. Members will then decide if the licence will be permanently revoked and whether a suspension needs to remain in place until any appeal against their decision is made.

Essex Police licensing officer Ronan McManus said: “The police investigation demonstrates a link between the pub and potential criminal activity and for these reasons, working with our partners, we took immediate action to call for a review of its licence to sell alcohol.” Councillor Shannon Jezzard, chair of Harlow Council’s licensing committee, said: “Following last week’s events the police made an application to us on Monday afternoon for a summary review of the pub’s licence.

“Due to the seriousness of the investigation, a licensing sub-committee had to meet within 48 hours to consider whether any immediate steps were required. “The sub-committee, chaired by Councillor Nick Churchill, agreed to take immediate steps to remove the designated premises supervisor and suspend the premises licence with a full hearing to be held within 28 days.” The investigation was part of Operation Venetic - the UK's investigation into the use by criminals of the Encrochat encrypted phone communication system.

Operation Venetic began in April after Dutch and French specialist investigators hacked into Encrochat, which was used by 60,000 criminals globally and 10,000 in the UK, for supposedly secure communications.

Access was given to police across Europe who were able to monitor real time messages between organised criminals across Europe.

So far more than 1,000 people have been arrested in the UK with hundreds charged.

(Top image Google - all others Essex Police from the raids)

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