Raids across the south in UK's biggest operation against organised crime


"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 intelligence allowed investigators to understand the illicit activity of people using the system and showed the scale of criminal businesses operating across multiple countries.

The operation was a joint effort of French and Dutch law enforcement agencies and judicial authorities who were able to dismantle EncroChat with the assistance of Europol and Eurojust.

An encrypted communications server that was hacked by European police forces and led to millions of messages between criminals being intercepted was also used by the Kinahan cartel.

The agency said it worked with global crime agencies to infiltrate EncroChat, and that it was partners in the Netherlands and France who had cracked its encryption and shared data with Europol.

In the United Kingdom alone, more than £50 million in cash has been seized and some 746 suspects arrested as part of "Operation Venetic".

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".

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

"For an important part, these messages were read by law enforcement in real time, over the shoulder of the unsuspecting senders". This includes more than 100 arrests in the Netherlands, where authorities confiscated more than 8,000 kilos of cocaine and 1,200 kilos of crystal meth, destroyed 19 drug labs and seized firearms and vehicles.

She went on: "By monitoring thousands of handsets and analysing millions of messages we have already mitigated threats to life including conspiracy to murder we have protected the public by taking risky firearms and drugs off the streets and we have seized millions of pounds in criminal cash and assets".

Its director of investigations, Nikki Holland, said: "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". "They were brazen and thought they were beyond the reach of the law", she added.

"We know how much serious and organised crime and particularly the distribution and sale of drugs impacts on our communities and the harm it does to people across the Thames Valley".

"Due to the level of sophistication of the attack and the malware code, we can no longer guarantee the security of your device", Encrochat's message to users said.

"They see this as that significant in terms of getting that inside information, effectively having a person inside an organized crime group telling us what they're up to", she said. "I'd say to any criminal who uses an encrypted phone, you should be very, very anxious".