Two men arrested during Priti Patel EncroChat raids appear in court but case can't proceed


TWO men charged with drugs and money laundering offences after a National Crime Agency (NCA) EncroChat raid watched by former Home Secretary Priti Patel today appeared in court.

Rajinder Bassi, 44, of Charlock Way, Abbotswood, Guildford, and Waqas Iqbal, 40, of Hurst Drive, Waltham Cross, are accused of conspiracy to supply cocaine, conspiracy to supply ketamine, conspiracy to import class A drugs and money laundering.

They appeared by video link at Guildford Crown Court today, but the case could not proceed as Iqbal was not legally represented due to the ongoing barrister strikes.

Judge Jonathan Black agreed to postpone the case until October as a result.

The trial is set to go ahead in January.

The men were arrested in simultaneous raids at addresses in west Surrey and Hertfordshire in August. The west Surrey arrest was witnessed by then Home Secretary Priti Patel.

The investigation into the suspects was part of Operation Venetic – the NCA-led, UK response to the takedown of encrypted communications platform EncroChat in 2020.

The case was delayed as HMP Wandsworth, where the pair are remanded, repeatedly failed to produce the two defendants onto the video link, until Judge Black gave prison staff a final two minutes to do it or face a grilling from him on why they were not there.

They were then produced.

The court had earlier heard the prison was dealing with an "incident" and struggling to bring the two defendants out due to staffing issues.

The court clerk was heard to tell barristers afterwards: "This is not an unexpected situation with Wandsworth as you are probably all aware."

The case was adjourned until next month.