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West Midlands police seize £7 million and 200kg of drugs in UK's 'biggest' operation on criminal 'Mr Bigs'

By Harriet Evans | Birmingham | Crime | Published:

More than £7 million in cash and more than 200kg of class A drugs have been seized by police in the West Midlands as part of an operation targetting organised criminals trading in drugs and guns.

Some of the cash seized. Video grab: West Midlands Regional Organised Crime Unit.

It came as a military-grade encrypted communication system used by organised gangs was hacked by law enforcement in one of the biggest operations of its kind.

In what has been described as the UK’s biggest ever law enforcement operation, the West Midlands Regional Organised Crime Unit (WMROCU) has arrested 43 people and charged 11 in the last few months.

Video reveals details of operation:

Biggest ever operation targeting UK organised crime is revealed

Working with the National Crime Agency, WMROCU has carried out months of work across the region after an international law enforcement team cracked the encryption of communication platforms used exclusively by criminals.

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

The sole use was for coordinating and planning the distribution of illicit commodities, money laundering and plotting to kill rival criminals.

Screenshot of the Encrochat website
Encrochat offered features including self-deleting messages (Encrochat/PA)

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Head of WMROCU, Detective Chief Superintendent Richard Baker, said: “Thanks to the intelligence we received, we were able to dovetail with international activity and bring operations to a conclusion much quicker.

“We have seized considerable amounts of cash, drugs, firearms and other commodities that we know were destined for local, national and international distribution.

“We specifically focussed on those thought to be involved in the highest levels of organised crime across our region.

“This work has undoubtedly saved lives by taking guns and drugs off the streets and we know we have made a huge contribution to making our streets much safer from organised crime gangs.

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"Although the tactic has now been made public this does not mean the operation has stopped.

"The wealth of intelligence we have received means that investigations will be continuing into organised crime groups regionally and there will be many more warrants, arrests and prosecutions over the coming months as a result of this."

The criminal group behind EncroChat operated from outside the UK.

European law enforcement agencies have also been targeting organised crime groups.

DCS Baker continued: “Operation Venetic began at the end of March just as the Covid-19 pandemic struck the UK, and despite the virus, officers and staff in WMROCU worked relentlessly throughout − working on their days off, working very long days, all at a time when most people stayed at home.

“The dedication by the teams has resulted in us being able to identify key people involved in serious organised crime across the whole West Midlands region over the last few months."

Harriet Evans

By Harriet Evans
Community Reporter - @HarrietEvans_ES

Community Reporter at the Express & Star, covering the issues affecting young people across the Black Country and Staffordshire. Contact me at harriet.evans@expressandstar.co.uk

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