Sunday Express

We are losing war with police say drug lords

- By Jon Austin CRIME EDITOR

CRIMINAL kingpins complained “police are winning the war... they’re getting everyone” on an encrypted messaging system that had been hacked by detectives.

The service was used by 60,000 gangsters worldwide but the code was cracked by law enforcemen­t, leading to significan­t arrests.

One gang boss, unaware his messages were being monitored, vowed to quit the UK in fear of the National Crime Agency.

The NCA and regional crime squads were monitoring live chats of 10,000 organised criminals operating in the UK from April to June.

Messages were recorded being swapped on the supposedly secure Encrochat phone service, largely used by criminals, after Dutch and French law enforcemen­t teams cracked it in April before the data was then shared via Europol.

Under the subsequent Operation Venetic more than 746 arrests have been made across the UK with seizures of more than £54million in criminal cash, two tonnes of drugs and 77 firearms.

And 200 gangland murder plots or serious attacks were foiled after the data breach.

Encrochat warned users and shut down after word got out to criminals they were under observatio­n after the first charges and details of where evidence came from was served on defendants.

The NCA, often described as Britain’s FBI, released unedited Encrochat messages where criminals discussed its operation.

One wrote: “I’m moving my family from UK this year because NCA is getting too smart,” with another adding “bro trust me NCA is like M15 for our business”. Home Secretary Priti Patel said last August she wanted criminals to “feel terror” from the long arm of the law and it appears that the hack has had that effect. She attended one of the raids in Soho last week.

Messages included some saying “be scared of NCA,” “NCA scary b ****** s” and “have you seen NCA site... they’re getting everyone.”

Several conceded “police were winning the war”. The hack also unearthed two British law enforcemen­t officers now suspected of corruption. Matt Horne, the NCA’S Deputy Director of Investigat­ions, said: “The messages are a reflection of UK law enforcemen­t’s standing in their eyes – and they were before they realised their communicat­ion system had been infiltrate­d.”

Last month the Sunday Express revealed how there had been a surge of arrests and seizures of drugs in April and May, which the NCA claimed at the time had been aided by lockdown. But it was actually the result of the Encrochat hack.

A source said yesterday that large numbers of the 746 arrested are eastern Europeans – from Albania,

Romania and Poland – who have been able to cement internatio­nal organised crime networks here since the EU allowed free movement.

The NCA and the Met Police made 171 of the arrests and seized £13million, Details of most of the 200 so far charged have yet to be released.

Yesterday the Met revealed how criminals concealed drugs, cash, firearms and luxury items in specially adapted hides inside vehicles.

Watches, jewellery and two kilos of cocaine were found cleverly concealed in transit vans.

One compartmen­t was built into the floor of the van and opened by remote control.

Two others looked like an electrical generator box and were covered in tools and building equipment.

Officers discovered the complex method of opening these boxes – they first had to be powered up using an electrical transforme­r, and a specially made key fob was required to engage a hydraulic lock.

The Met’s Deputy Assistant Commission­er, Graham Mcnulty, said: “Our officers instinctiv­ely look for evidence in places you wouldn’t think to look.

“They have the knowledge and expertise to gain access to even the most sophistica­ted hides with complex locking mechanisms.”

‘The NCA is getting too smart’

 ?? Picture: REX/SHUTTERSTO­CK ?? CLOSING IN: An arrest on Thursday and, inset, a hiding place inside a fake generator
Picture: REX/SHUTTERSTO­CK CLOSING IN: An arrest on Thursday and, inset, a hiding place inside a fake generator
 ??  ?? TIME’S UP: Valuable loot discovered inside the fake generator, above
TIME’S UP: Valuable loot discovered inside the fake generator, above
 ??  ??
 ??  ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United Kingdom