NCA won't say if it is investigating mystery EncroChat and Sky ECC cocaine importer 'Championssss'


THE National Crime Agency (NCA) has refused to say if it knows the identity of a cocaine kingpin who used the EncroChat and Sky ECC encrypted phone systems to try to cover his large-scale importations.

The top-tier criminal used the Encro handle Championssss, Luton Crown Court heard.

It was during the sentencing of an Albanian cocaine broker called Erion Nakdi, 38, from Surbiton, Surrey, who the NCA said was at the high end of distributing multiple kilos of cocaine across the country once it arrived from South America.

In March Nakdi admitted conspiracy to supply cocaine and possessing criminal property (£11,950 cash).

Prosecuting, Daniel Higgins, said Nakdi was shown via his Encrochat messages to have been not far removed from the original suppliers in South America.

He said: "We submit from some of the messages he has got at the very least a good knowledge of how the cocaine has been imported into the UK from Belgium and the Netherlands and it references contact with South America and Albania...

"EncroChat allowed cooperation, and particularly between various people exercising leading roles in different groups.

"We submit EncroChat did allow those who are higher up in the chain to cooperate and deal in that way."

Nakdi was arrested during Operation Venetic, the NCA's Encrochat investigation, on November 12 2020 near Luton Airport as he was about to board a flight.

Dutch and French law enforcement hacked into the EncroChat system, used by 60,000 people across the globe, in April 2020, accessing historic messages and new ones as they were sent in real time.

It led to multiple raids across the world that seized multi-millions of pounds of drugs and cash plus firearms and prevented several alleged planned murders or attacks.

Thousands of arrests were made with prosecutions, including Nakdi's, still underway across the globe.

More arrests followed after the encrypted Sky ECC and Anom systems were also breached earlier this year.

Nakdi was found to be using a BQ Aquaris EncroChat device with a Dutch telephone number under the handle “taboocrow”.

Investigators looked at 4,337 messages he sent or received in less than two months between April 9 and June 5 2020 with a 721 page Excel spreadsheet provided to the court.

Mr Higgins said his phone acted like a "cocaine brokerage service" having communications with 17 other EncroChat users about supplying multiple kilos of cocaine to different crime gangs across London and in Manchester, Liverpool, Exeter, Luton and Surrey.

Nakdi was sourcing the drugs directly from Championssssss, who he also communicated with on a Sky ECC device.

It is not known if the user has ever been identified or caught and an NCA spokeswoman said: "We can neither confirm nor deny the existence of an investigation into that user."

The messages between them and Nakdi's customers laid bare the huge scale of the cocaine trade across the country and showed how "dummy runs" of cars with special hides filled with empty boxes were carried out before real drugs were moved.

They included 68 photographs, 45 of which appear to be of kilogram blocks of cocaine.

Over the period they discussed the movement of 198kgs of cocaine, about 25kgs a week, costing around £35,500 a kg, with a further 200kgs said to be stored in a flat.

Some buyers sought huge amounts of 100kgs a month, with 20 per cent at a cost price discount, or even 80kgs a week.

Mr Higgins, said: "It is evident that in some messages (Nakdi) states that he has made little profit, in others profit up to £7000 per kilogram.

"On May 22, there is discussion between the person using the handle ‘destinedtobegreat’ and (Nakdi) about being able to “clear” £50,000 each a week, up until Christmas.

"The messages sent and received by Nakdi disclose that he was engaged in the selling of multiple kilogram trades of cocaine, organising the purchasing and supplying and providing direction to others.

"They disclose that he had links to others exercising leading roles, and providing direction to others conducting significant roles.

"Nakdi communicates with 17 other handles.

"The device is clearly solely used for the purpose of supplying drugs, and predominantly cocaine in kilogram and multiple kilogram

quantities."

Defending Nakdi, William Boyce, suggested Nakdi made only £500 from each sale and was often never paid.

He also said most of the messages were "false boasts" to inflate his position within the group and the true amount of drugs involved was significantly lower than that suggested by the prosecution.

Judge Steven Evans adjourned sentence until next year, saying the defence and prosecution must first reach an agreement on the basis of plea.