Hundreds arrested, tonnes of drugs seized as police intercept crime gang messages

Hundreds arrested, tonnes of drugs seized as police intercept crime gang messages

The operations across the eastern region, which targeted prominent criminals involved in serious and organised crime, also saw 46 arrests in 55 separate investigations.

But the NCA says the messaging system has been used as a "criminal marketplace" to co-ordinate the supply of Class A drugs across the world, and import weapons including assault rifles, sub-machine guns, shotguns, pistols and hand grenades.

Police used the hack to foil crimes including "violent attacks, corruption, attempted murders and large-scale drug transports", Eurojust and the European Union police agency Europol said in a joint statement.

According to NCA, it created the technology to crack the EncroChat's encrypted data, which helped law enforcement agencies to gain direct access to criminals' communications, to intercept millions of messages, and to identify those criminals.

EncroChat delivered a message to its 60,000 users in the month of June notifying them to get rid of their devices as its servers had been "seized illegally by government entities".

The operation came to an abrupt end two weeks ago when EncroChat became aware of the software used by police to infiltrate the site.

Thames Valley Police officers have seized guns, drugs and more than £300,000 in cash as part of the UK's biggest ever operation cracking down on organised crime. They have openly discussed plots to murder, launder money, deal drugs and sell firearms capable of causing atrocious scenes in our communities.

Chief Constable Peter Goodman, of the National Police Chiefs' Council, said: "Criminals have been using these devices believing they were indecipherable by law enforcement".

An estimated 60,000 people, among them up to 10,000 in Britain, subscribe to Encrochat, which works on customised Android phones and, according to its website, provides "worry-free secure communications".

Simon Parkes, detective chief superintendent from ERSOU, said: "This is perhaps the most important law enforcement operation to take place in the Eastern region. They were brazen and thought they were beyond the reach of the law", she added.

Nikki Holland, the NCA's director of investigations, described the operation as one of the broadest and deepest probes of serious organised crime in the country's history.

"The operation also demonstrates the substantial benefits which we derive from worldwide co-operation between law enforcement agencies in Scotland and those of other countries - benefits which help to ensure the safety and security of people living in Scotland".

Sources said that the encrypted communication was widely used by associates of the Kinahan cartel both in Ireland and overseas.

"Together we've protected the public by arresting middle-tier criminals and the kingpins, the so-called iconic untouchables who have evaded law enforcement for years, and now we have the evidence to prosecute them". In the United Kingdom, 746 people were arrested and more than $67 million in cash seized, officials said.

She added: "If you have one of these devices be very anxious because we are probably coming for you".

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