A year ago news of Operation Venetic and the takedown of Encrochat (a mobile encryption service exploited by criminals involved in serious organised crime across the UK and Europe) became public.
And since then UK police forces, led by the NCA, have been working on identifying the criminals who were using the service for their ill-gotten gains.
Here on Merseyside detectives have been working diligently with the NCA and North West Regional Organised Crime Unit and as a result we are now able to show the significant impact this operation has had on serious organised criminality in Merseyside.
Since last July Merseyside Police has: • Arrested 133 people • Charged 101 people • Seized 4 loaded firearms and ammunition • Seized 72 kgs of cocaine and heroine • Seen 31 people convicted to a total of 366 years in prison • £1.6M in cash
And this is just the beginning with more activity and arrests to come in the coming months. Detective Chief Superintendent Mark Kameen, head of Investigation, explains, “Operation Venetic has had a huge impact on serious organised crime here on Merseyside. We have always been relentless in our pursuit of those involved in serious organised crime, but the Venetic gave us an added insight into those involved in this type of criminality and has opened up new avenues for us in terms of investigation and disruption.
“Operation Venetic is the biggest operation of its kind in the UK so far. Globally 60,000 users were identified worldwide and about 10,000 of them were in the UK and the use of the encryption service was purely for coordinating and planning the supply and distribution of drugs and weapons, money laundering and other criminal activity.
“The results we have achieved so far are just the tip of the iceberg. We are still working on Venetic to target and dismantle other criminal networks identified as part of this operation and in the next 12 to 18 months I expect to see further results that will put a real in dent in organised crime on Merseyside. Arrest packages are being put together on a daily basis and if you are involved in serious organised crime you can expect a knock on your door in the coming weeks and months, as we haven’t finished yet.
“We will also proactively look at ill-gotten gains and will seize assets under the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) when we can to ensure that offenders aren’t benefitting from their criminal activity. When we seize cash under POCA, we get a portion of that cash back and we are then able to invest money into our communities to assist with diversionary activities and activities being carried out by community groups to reduce crime and bring stronger cohesion.”
He added, “Serious Organised Crime has a profound negative impact on our communities, whether it be through the drugs and violence that bring misery to our streets, the guns that can seriously injure or kill, cybercrime which can infiltrate people’s homes, or the exploitation of our vulnerable members of the community, particularly children involved in County Lines.
“I can also reassure the communities of Merseyside that the force will continue its fight against those involved in serious organised crime to make our communities safer.
Nikki Holland, Director of Investigations at the National Crime Agency, said, “Merseyside Police, along with other UK forces, are a key partner for the NCA in our collective fight against organised crime and the misery it inflicts on our communities.
“Merseyside’s achievements during the last 12 months are really significant. We will keep working together to protect the region’s public along with the rest of the UK.”
Detective Superintendent Paul Denn from the North West Regional Organised Crime Unit (NWROCU) said, “Since the takedown of ‘EncroChat’ twelve months ago, our officers have continued to work together with our six North West police forces, to identify the criminals who were using the encrypted devices to carry out their illegal activity.
“Tackling serious and organised crime, and those who cause the most harm to our communities in the North West remains our top priority here at the NWROCU, and we will continue use all our specialist tactics to disrupt these dangerous offenders operating across our region.
“Since last July more than 400 people have been arrested across the North West and more than £16 million pounds in cash and 400kg of Class A and B drugs seized as part of Operation Venetic.
“I can reassure communities across the North West that we will leave no stone unturned – we will continue to interpret, analyse and share intelligence and data to target and dismantle the most hardened criminals in our region.”