Inside £14m pill lab bust as part of Britain's biggest crime sting

Yolanda Curtis
July 2, 2020

The NCA said they had mitigated 200 threats to life as part of the operation, which has so far led to the arrest of 746 suspects and the seizure of at least £54m in cash alleged to be linked to criminals, along with 77 firearms, including an AK-47 assault rifle, submachine guns, handguns, four grenades, and over 1,800 rounds of ammunition.

The National Crime Agency and several European partners say they have smashed a secret communication system used by gangsters across the continent.

"It also underlines the importance of continued cross-border co-operation in law enforcement, as well as the value of the partnerships forged through Scotland's Serious Organised Crime Taskforce and our highly-prized Scottish Crime Campus".

"The organised crime groups thought that by using encrypted technology they could fly below the radar of law enforcement, however this operation should send a clear message that the combined strength of PSNI working in partnership with our law enforcement partners that no-one is beyond the reach of the law".

Police have seized £13.4 million in cash - £5 million of it in a single raid - and seized 16 guns, including Skorpion submachine guns, 620 kilos of heroin and cocaine and 19 kilos of cannabis.

"We have already seized high purity Class A drugs and made a number of arrests".


French and Dutch police broke into the EncroChat service two months ago and have been harvesting the data from the criminal-only service that has allowed countries across the continent to take down some of their most significant criminals.

This left investigators with a race against time to make the most of the wealth of information available on the platform, targeting "Mr and Mrs Bigs" before they could cover their tracks.

It said there would be more arrests and seizures in the coming weeks and months.

North Wales Police's Head of Crime Services, Detective Chief Superintendent Wayne Jones, said: "Officers and staff from North Wales Police played a key role in supporting Operation Venetic, working with colleagues in the North West Regional Organised Crime Unit and the National Crime Agency". They have openly discussed plots to murder, launder money, deal drugs and sell firearms capable of causing atrocious scenes in our communities.

"We know who they are and we have seen what they are doing and who they are doing it with".

The EncroChat servers have now been shut down.


Steve Jupp, chief constable for the National Police Chief's Council, further said that "by dismantling these groups, we have saved countless lives and protected communities across the United Kingdom".

EncroChat offered a secure mobile phone instant messaging service to 60,000 users worldwide and around 10,000 users in the UK.

The NCA says it "successfully penetrated" (grim) EncroChat over three months, decrypting and viewing more than 100 million messages and preventing several murders as a result.

Nikki Holland, NCA director of investigations, said: "The infiltration of this command and control communication platform for the UK's criminal marketplace is like having an inside person in every top organised crime group in the country".

The UK's National Police Chiefs' Council lead for serious organized crime, Chief Constable Steve Jupp, said the "unique operation" was focused on those believed to be at the highest level of organized crime. Holland said criminals with encrypted devices "should be very, very anxious".


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