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We have today, Friday 19 August, welcomed the sentencing of a drug dealer to 21 years in jail in another successful prosecution brought as part of the Merseyside Police response to Operation Venetic: the national investigation into the use of encrypted mobile devices, commonly referred to as Encrochat.
Anthony Bowden, 40 years, of Lancer Way, Liverpool was originally arrested at his home on 19 June 2020 following an extensive investigation into his drug dealing using Encrochat. After initially being released under investigation he was arrested again on 10 May 2021 at Holyhead ferry terminal.
Bowden, who operated with the Encrochat handle Hyenajaw, was a personal trainer whose lifestyle and spending outweighed his reported salary. When arrested, police found designer clothing and shoes with an estimated value of £30,000 at his property.
He was evidenced sending messages to other Encrochat users claiming lockdown would not impact his drug dealing and discussed ways of attempting to avoid detection by police. Messages were also seen by police in which he agreed prices and discussed importation from Holland to the UK.
Bowden was later charged and found guilty after trial. Today at Liverpool Crown Court, Bowden was sentenced for conspiracy to supply Class A drugs including at least 20kg of heroin and 4kg of cocaine, with the wider network that he was part of having conspired to supply at least 84kg heroin and 17kg cocaine. Bowden was also sentenced for conspiring to import at least 4kg of cocaine into the UK. He was jailed for 21 years.
Bowden’s co-conspirator Andrew Sweeney, 40 years, of Heatherleigh Close, Bootle, was also originally arrested on 19 June 2020, and then arrested again on 13 May 2021.
Sweeney, a private hire driver who used the Encro handle Squashchamp, was found to have used Encrochat to communicate with Bowden and others sourcing heroin and selling it on.
When police entered Sweeney’s house, they seized £15,000 in cash hidden in various places including a car boot, where officers also found heroin in a gym bag.
He is believed to have received at least 4.5kg of heroin between 29 March 2020 to 21 May 2020, and on one occasion he took possession of 2kg of heroin at a cost of £32,000.
Sweeney pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply Class A drugs and was sentenced at Liverpool Crown Court on 31 May. He received seven years and six months in prison.
The sentences are part of an operation involving European law enforcement agencies working with the National Crime Agency, and 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 the ‘Encrochat’ service being used by criminals involved in serious and organised crime to carry out their business.
Detective Sergeant James Boardman said: “The jailing of people who continue to peddle drugs and cause misery on the streets of Merseyside is continuing on an almost daily basis.
“Bowden and Sweeney both thought that they would evade police by using Encrochat. They were wrong, and now they will pay the price for their criminality.
“These drug dealers think they are above the law and can continue to ply their illicit trade and profit from their crimes.
“I am pleased that through detailed and thorough investigations we managed to secure evidence to put them both behind bars for a number of years.
“Our work to prevent such people from supplying illegal drugs to vulnerable people in our communities goes on, and others already charged are waiting to hear their fate in court.
Anyone who has information about drug dealing in the community can contact us by sending a DM to @MerPolCC, calling 101 or contacting Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.