ENCROCHAT HACK: Suspects arrested in encrypted phones probe were already known to investigators


THREE of the four latest people to be arrested under Operation Venetic - the wide-ranging investigation following the hack of the Encrochat mobile communication system - were already known to police.

Detectives arrested a 34-year-old, suspected of being the head of a London organised crime group flooding the capital with cocaine, this morning at his flat on North End Road in Hammersmith, west London.

Three other people were arrested after a series of dawn raids carried out by the Organised Crime Partnership (OCP) - a joint National Crime Agency (NCA) and Met Police unit. A Met Police spokesman said: "He was under investigation by the OCP when messages acquired as part of Operation Venetic – an investigation into the encrypted messaging platform EncroChat – linked him to three other individuals." Officers also arrested a 49-year-old man on Linkfield Road in Isleworth, west London, suspected of being the main drug runner for the group. A woman, aged 62, who investigators allege laundered the group’s illicit earnings, was arrested along with her son, aged 29, at their home in Imperial Wharf, Fulham. These two had also already been on the radar of the OCP before the Encrochat hack, but they had not been charged.

The spokesman added: "OCP officers previously seized close to 50,000 ecstasy tablets and over £90,000 in cash from the same address, for which the pair were arrested and released under investigation." All four were taken into custody where they remain for questioning. Matt McMillan from the OCP said: “Today’s operation has taken out a criminal group we believe was involved in distributing huge amounts of cocaine across London and the Home Counties. “The trade in class A drugs fuels violence and exploitation and today’s activity is yet another example of the NCA and Met Police working together to protect the public from this threat.”

French and Dutch law enforcement cyber experts managed to crack the encryption of the messaging service used by 60,000 criminals worldwide and around 10,000 in the UK in the Spring.

The NCA and British police forces were given access to real-time messages of organised criminals leading to hundreds of raids with so far more than 1,000 people being arrested nationally.

The Met has now arrested around 254 people with 124 of them now charged.

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