United Kingdom

Crime kingpins on EncroChat phone network smashed by investigators called them 'pack of hyenas'

Crime kingpins using the secret phone network smashed by law enforcement were terrified it could happen, fearing they would 'come in hard and fast' like a 'pack of hyenas'.

Gang bosses described the National Crime Agency as 'b*******' in frantic exchanges on EncroChat, branding their tactics as 'sophisticated and relentless' and having 'intel on everything'.

One fumed 'The police are winning this year.' 'That's naughty when the big boys like NCA and flying squad come its not good they wont stop'. 

And another proved prophetic when they declared 'They will keep digging until they get a result… You know what the NCA are like'.

The National Crime Agency released texts sent by criminals on the EncroChat system which showed how worried they were about facing justice

The newly-released messages today show their paranoia was real after the crimefighting force teamed-up with international partners to crack the secure communications network in April.

The posts were among millions of exchanges on the EncroChat system, which used modified Android phones and cost £1,500 for just six months of use.

So far they have sparked over 746 UK arrests, seizures of more than £54m in criminal cash, two tonnes of drugs, 77 firearms and 200 threats to life murder plots stopped in a huge police swoop codenamed Operation Venetic.

The EncroChat system used Android mobiles which had been customised for secrecy

Inside the mind of criminals: texts show crooks' fear of the law

Messages from the criminals – many with spelling mistakes - using EncroChat were released by the NCA today.

'If ye got that NCA on ye m8/ ye got problems for sure and heavy bird m8.' 

'Bro NCA come after you there is no work these b******* had intel on everything.'

'The police are winning this year. That's naughty when the big boys like NCA and flying squad come its not good they wont stop'

'Yeah if NCA are on him. Defiantly not the firm that go away. That like a pack of hyenigas'

'….When NCA come…….., they gona come in hard and fast'

'Bro trust me NCA is like M15 for our business'

'They will keep digging until they get a result… You know what the NCA are like'

'NCA as u know well are sophisticated and relentless'

'I'm moving my family from UK this year because NCA is getting to smart' 

NCA Deputy Director Investigations Matt Horne, who was also Gold Commander for the massive project, said: 'Operation Venetic has targeted middle-ranking and top tier criminals, including offenders who've previously been untouchable.

'The messages are a reflection of UK law enforcement's standing in their eyes – and they were before they realised their communication system had been infiltrated.

 'Who knows what they think now?

'This is the just the start of Operation Venetic and the last thing we'll be is complacent.

'We are not going to take our foot off the gas.'

The EncroChat servers that the authorities cracked were based in France.

French and Dutch partners infiltrated the system before sharing it via Europol.

EncroChat handsets could only communicate with other identical phones.

They only had the special chat app on them, apart from a currency converter to help calculate profit on deals.

There were thought to be 10,000 users in the UK, with an estimated 60,000 worldwide.

The MailOnline reported this week that although it was mainly used by criminals, the privacy of the network meant celebrities, politicians and royalty had also used the system in the past.

Deepak Vij, who is the Director of law firm ABV Solicitors, said there was little doubt important people would have been EncroChat customers.

He said: 'This technology was very useful to persons including royalty, politicians, high network individuals, and executives who did not want their sensitive communications or data to be discovered.

Police carried out raids across the UK, including in Birmingham (pictured) and arrested scores of suspects

Guns including machine guns and uzis were seized in the raids, which were sparked by data harvested from the EncroChat system

Operation Venetic saw 746 UK arrests and seizures of more than £54m in criminal cash, including this haul from London

'If it was just criminals that used these things, the devices would have been made illegal – they weren't.'

Despite this the handsets were used in some of the county's most notorious offences.

Gangland boss Mark Fellows used the secret network when he assassinated rivals, Salford's 'Mr Big' Paul Massey and another underworld rival, John Kinsella.

Paul Massey (left) and John Kinsella (right) were killed by a hitman who used the EncroChat system to communicate with his accomplice

What is the 'EncroChat' smartphone system used by the mafia to move money, drugs and order murders

EncroChat was a secret platform where users were able to communicate privately between specially-designed handsets - often to run drugs, traffick people and even order murders.

These devices, costing £1,500, are usually Android-based smartphones that had their GPS sensors, microphones, and cameras stripped out, encrypted chat apps installed by default to allow people to sent private messages. It is now emerging that criminal syndicates across the world had one - with one in six of the 60,000 users in the UK.  

Marketed as the electronic equivalent of two people having a conversation in an empty room, it enabled users to send written messages or make voice calls through an encrypted system.

There were thought to be 60,000 users internationally, including 10,000 in the UK, with prices at £1,500 for a six-month contract. 

The National Crime Agency said the handset could also be wiped remote

Fellows, nicknamed 'Iceman' for his ruthlessness, executed Massey with an Uzi machine gun, hitting him five times on the doorstep of his Salford home in July 2015.

Three years later he executed mob enforcer and fixer Kinsella was in a hail of bullets.

During his trial it emerged that Fellows had been tipped off by an accomplice via the encrypted phone service when Kinsella was coming into range.

When he was questioned about the unusual handset, he flippantly declared 'No one even owns a normal phone these days'.

Meanwhile gangsters Andrew Venna and Matthew Cornwall were also revealed to have used the system in May last year.

Venna and members of his gang were believed to be behind an outbreak of gang warfare in the city which left a number of victims seriously hurt.

He and eight customers and couriers were hit with overwhelming evidence persuaded them to plead guilty to a series of drug supply charges against them.

Venna, was branded Chief Executive of the gang, as he was jailed him for 12 years and nine months while Cornwall got ten years.

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