MORE THAN £3.1 million in criminal cash and 86 kilos of drugs have been seized in the biggest operation of its kind in the UK.
The South East Regional Organised Crime Unit (SEROCU) and forces in the region have been a part of Operation Venetic — the biggest UK law enforcement operation targeting serious and organised crime.
To ensure success, details of this operation have been withheld — until now.
One breakthrough included taking down a bespoke encrypted global communication service used exclusively by criminals.
EncroChat offered a secure mobile phone instant messaging service, but an international law enforcement team cracked the company’s encryption.
Thousands of handsets have been monitored, millions of messages have been analysed and intelligence gathered across the country and overseas has revealed the illicit activity of people using this system around the world.
This international response has allowed police intervention to stop murder conspiracies and has led to a vast seizure of dangerous firearms and illicit drugs.
There has also been a series of successful operations targeting prominent criminals.
In the South East, SEROCU and the police forces of Hampshire Constabulary, Surrey Police, Sussex Police and Thames Valley Police have arrested more than 45 suspects and seized more than £3.1 million in criminal cash, and more than 86 kilos of Class A and B drugs.
Assistant Chief Constable Pete O’Doherty, South East regional lead for counter terrorism and organised crime, said: “Operation Venetic, led by the National Crime Agency, has been a success due to the partnership working involved across all of policing, both in the UK and abroad.
“The operations carried out across the South East region would not have been possible without our local police forces involvement and support.
“This has not only been the biggest operation to take place in the South East but the results are deeply significant as well. Not only with the goods seized but also the disruption this will cause to serious and organised crime groups operating in our communities.
“I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the SEROCU investigators and all the forces and officers from across the South East for their tireless work.
“These criminals may have felt untouchable, using a system they thought was under the radar of law enforcement, but this technology is now being used against them.
“A committed joint objective by law enforcement across the country will be to continue to keep one step ahead of these criminals.
“There is still work to be done and SEROCU and our partners are dedicated to pursuing those who are involved in serious and organised crime and will continue to disrupt this criminality and bring those found to be involved to justice.”
Drugs raid in Wokingham
Detectives from SEROCU’s Dark Web team also conducted a series of drug warrants in London and Wokingham on Friday, June 19.
Across five addresses, eight kilos of cocaine, approximately £100,000 in cash was seized along with 53 digital devices, a number of which were encrypted.
Five men were arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to supply and concealing, disguising converting and transferring criminal property offences.
In the Thames Valley, £300,000 in cash and multiple kilos of class A and class B drugs including cocaine and cannabis have been seized in the last three months.
And 20 arrests were made for offences including drugs supply and money laundering. Four people have been charged with conspiracy to supply Class A drugs and money laundering so far.
Detective Superintendent Katy Barrow-Grint, head of specialist operations for Thames Valley Police, said: “Thames Valley Police is committed to tackling serious and organised crime and will disrupt it wherever we can.
“Our ongoing commitment through our stronghold campaign means that we will work in partnership with the NCA and SEROCU as well as other police forces and partner agencies to target this type of criminality and also safeguard anyone we find who has been exploited.
“We know how much serious, organised crime and sale of drugs impacts on our communities and the harm it does to people across the Thames Valley.
“This joint work has been hugely successful in seizing money, drugs and firearms, disrupting drug dealing operations, but we will not stop there, we will continue to take action to stop those who seek to make a profit from crime and cause harm to our communities.”