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ENCROCHAT SHOCKER: Staggering claims and admissions about evidence during two crown court cases

FRENCH police have refused to tell the National Crime Agency (NCA) how they intercepted messages from the EncroChat phone system, a prosecution barrister admitted yesterday.

The CPS barrister told an ongoing British crown court trial that the NCA has no idea how the infamous interception was carried out in April 2020.

He also admitted that NCA attempts to convert "raw data" supplied by Europol had led to "misleading" results with the same messages, that were only sent once, repeated numerous times in the extracted information.

It also emerged yesterday, during a separate crown court case, that NCA officer Emma Sweeting has "very recently" disclosed alleged contemporaneous notes of a meeting that "seem to be the complete opposite to her evidence" given in previous hearings, according to a defence barrister.

Nearly 3,000 people have been arrested in the UK following the interception of the encrypted phone system by European counterparts, with hundreds of people charged with mainly drugs and money laundering offences.

Many have already been convicted, but several defendants continue to challenge the legality of the evidence obtained from the European infiltration.

More than 60,000 people worldwide were using EncroChat before the infiltration, with about 9,000 of them based in the UK.

The NCA has only so far targeted people suspected of involvement in drugs trafficking, firearms and money laundering with no suspected peadophile users arrested in connection with the hack.

Yesterday, during a crown court trial, which cannot be identified for legal reasons, the barrister set out "agreed facts" before the court that are accepted by the prosecution and the defence.

He said: "For reasons of French national security, the French have refused to tell the National Crime Agency (NCA) to this day how it (the EncroChat intercept) was done and it is not known.

"Some information about the implant can be inferred from the data that the EncroChat server was discovered in Roubaix in northern France."

He said the data arrived at Europol in a "Tars" format but the NCA created its own files after an application was made for a targeted interference warrant (TEI) to obtain the intercepted data, which the NCA called Operation Venetic.

He also said that NCA officer Emma Sweeting had overall control of Operation Venetic.

He said another NCA technical officer, Luke Shrimpton, had never seen the implant used and had not been present at the time of the intercept and neither he nor the NCA knew how it was done

The barrister said that Mr Shrimpton had written a computer script to convert the EncroChat raw date provided by Europol into a readable format, however, this had led to the extraction of the same data numerous times.

He said: "One message may appear that it was sent numerous times when, in fact, it was only sent once."

Because of this, he had to redo his system twice, he said, because it had created misleading results.

He added: "The data has gone through various processes before it could be presented in a UK court."

Several challenges have been lodged by EncroChat defendants about the reliability of the EncroChat evidence and also the legality of the TEI warrant when it was applied for due to the NCA's lack of understanding about how the infiltration was carried out.

A complaint to the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT), which oversees the use of covert investigation techniques in the UK, about the EncroChat evidence and warrants, is also due to continue next week.

In another twist, at a separate EncroChat crown court hearing yesterday, that also cannot be identified for legal reasons, a defence barrister claimed that Ms Sweeting had very recently disclosed to the court what were alleged to be contemporaneous notes of a meeting with European counterparts that had previously not been disclosed.

He said: "Miss Sweeting has in the last week or so provided some contemporaneous notes that seem to be the complete opposite to her evidence given in crown court preparatory hearings and at the IPT."

That case heard that the defence was still awaiting details of the number of EncroChat handsets the NCA actually obtained during Operation Venetic.

The defence barrister also argued that any other police forces, such as the Met Police, that acquired them during its investigations, should also have to disclose details.

The two crown court cases continue.


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