ENCROCHAT HACK: Three arrests in UK as warehouse in Netherlands raided over cocaine import plot


THREE men have been arrested and a warehouse in the Netherlands raided in connection with an alleged conspiracy to import cocaine into the UK in food deliveries from the Netherlands.

Officers from the Organised Crime Partnership – a joint NCA and Metropolitan Police Service unit – arrested the men in coordinated raids in Glasgow, London and Kent.

RAID: OCP officers arrive at the home of Payne on Wednesday morning (NCA)

The investigation was launched after officers analysed messages shared on EncroChat – the encrypted messaging platform that was brought down in June as part of Operation Venetic.

Thomas Payne, aged 47, from Hayes Road, Bromley, Kent; Mohammed Khan, aged 30, from Glenbervie Place, Newton Mearns, Glasgow; and Ciaran Jones, aged 32, from Burns Road, Harlesden, London, were arrested in dawn raids on Wednesday.

ARRESTED: Payne is brought from his home by officers (NCA)

At the same time the Dutch authorities raided a food warehouse in Reusel – a town near the Belgium border – which officers believe was going to be used to facilitate the smuggling of drugs.

The men were charged with conspiracy to import class A drugs. Payne and Jones appeared at Croydon Magistrates Court yesterday, while Khan appeared at Carlisle Magistrates Court.

They were all remanded in custody.

OCP Operations Manager Matt McMillan said: “Following the analysis of EncroChat messages as part of Operation Venetic, we believe we have disrupted a criminal operation to import vast quantities of drugs into the UK.

“The trade in class A drugs fuels violence and exploitation, and this investigation is yet another example of the NCA and Met Police working together to protect the public.”

This spring Dutch and French investigators broke through the encryption of the supposedly secure Encrochat encrypted phone communication platform which was being used by around 60,000 criminals worldwide and about 10,000 in the UK.

They allowed police forces across Europe, including in the UK, access to real time messaging between organised crime groups.

It led to hundreds of raids, arrests and seizures of drugs, cash and firearms, with more than 1,000 people arrested and hundreds of charges.

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