More than 30 people arrested, £2m in cash 25kg of Class A drugs seized on Merseyside as the full weight of the law comes down on serious and organised crime in a national operation
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Merseyside Police have been involved in a huge international operation targeting criminals involved in serious and organised crime and as a result more than 30 people have been arrested on Merseyside and officers have recovered more than £2m in cash, 25 kilos of Class A drugs, 450 cannabis plants, 28 kilos of Class B drugs and 1.5 tonnes of mixing agents and three firearms and ammunition.
The proactive activity was part of a huge international operation involving European law enforcement agencies working with the NCA and was supported across the UK by police forces and Regional Organised Crime Units.
The operation came about after law enforcement officials in Europe managed to crack a mobile encryption service being used by criminals involved in serious and organised crime to carry out their business.
Assistant Chief Constable Ian Critchley said: "Merseyside Police has always stood firm in its promise to tackle serious and organised crime and we have a proven track record in dealing with individuals who are responsible for the wholesale supply of illegal drugs both locally and across the country, as well as the use of violence, quite often involving gun and knife crime, to protect their business interests.
"In the last decade crime trends have changed significantly and we need to ensure that we move with the times so that we can effectively deal with those responsible for serious and organised crime on our streets.
"We have seen a trend amongst Merseyside criminals with the use of encrypted devices in a bid to evade detection, but the activity we have been involved with in recent weeks with the National Crime Agency and the North West Regional Organised Crime Unit and crime enforcement partners in Europe shows that nobody is infallible and we have the ability to come together and hit the criminals hard.
"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.
"As a result of this operation we have seen more than 30 people arrested for various offences including drugs and firearms supply and money laundering. More than £2m in cash has been recovered, along with 25 kilos of Class A drugs, 450 cannabis plants, 28 kilos of Class B drugs and 1.5 tonnes of mixing agents. And last night (Wednesday, 1 July) officers from our Firearms Investigation Team recovered three firearms (a Ruger 9mm handgun, a Beretta shotgun and a revolver) along with a quantity of ammunition from an unoccupied address on John Bagot Close in Everton.
"This operation was made possible after UK law enforcement, working with partners in Europe, was able to takedown a bespoke encrypted global communication service used exclusively by criminals.
"They mistakenly thought that by using the secure mobile instant messaging service Encrochat that they were untouchable, but unbeknown to them an international law enforcement team had cracked the company’s encryption and law enforcement agencies across the UK and Europe were monitoring their every move.
"As a result 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.
"This is the biggest operation of its kind in the UK and today Merseyside, as well as other forces areas around the UK, is safer as a result of the activity that has taken place in recent weeks.
"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."
Assistant Chief Constable Chris Green, head of the North West Regional Organised Crime Unit said: "We work with all six North West forces, and alongside our regional forces and the National Crime Agency (NCA) to target those causing the highest harm in communities across the region from organised crime.
"Our mission is to protect our communities through targeting those who are involved in all aspects of organised crime including the distribution and supply of illegal drugs and the use of serious violence. When we talk about a whole system approach to tackling organised crime, today perfectly illustrates this. Across the North West we have been working flat out with our local forces and the NCA to assess and interpret the intelligence and to identify opportunities to take enforcement action and also to safeguard and mitigate risks of serious violence.
"This activity has been mirrored right across the country and internationally we have been part of this joined up collective operation, with a multitude of forces, agencies and partners, working to identify those engaged in the most serious forms of criminality, gather the evidence and take action to dismantle the criminal networks and bring them to justice.
"As a result of this operation we have seen more than 93 people arrested across the North West for various offences including drugs and firearms supply and money laundering. More than £3.6m in cash has been recovered, along with 54 kilos of Class A drugs, 24 kilos of Class B drugs, 10 firearms and 220 rounds of ammunition."
Jayne Lloyd, NCA Head of Investigations for the North, said: "Operation Venetic is the broadest and most significant co-ordinated assault on UK organised crime groups ever seen.
"Criminals who believed they were operating anonymously in the shadows of technology, have and are still being exposed, this is causing criminals grave concern.
"Together with our partners in the UK and abroad, we have protected the public by arresting those who thought they were untouchable as they conducted their illegal activities within our communities."