East Mids gang used encrypted criminal phone network in multi-million pound cocaine plot

A gang who imported more than £165m of cocaine into the country have been jailed for a total of 170 years.


An investigation by the East Midlands Special Operations Unit (EMSOU) revealed the 21-strong group used encrypted EncroChat phones to order multiple kilos of the drug from contacts in Dubai, and then distributed it across the country.


The gang had two 'offices', in Luton and Derby, where millions of pounds flowed through from their cocaine sales – with an estimated £18.6m being made by the gang between 16 March and 30 April 2020, a daily total of £400k which officers used to estimate the gang’s total earnings over the 408 day conspiracy to be a staggering £165,208,208.

The investigation into the gang’s exploits was well underway when detectives were supplied with further evidence of their criminality after the secure EncroChat phone system the gang were using was taken down. The system, which was used by criminals across the world, was infiltrated by law enforcement in Europe who then passed the information to UK authorities.


The information gleaned from the messages allowed officers to target the gang and intercept 7kg of cocaine being transported in Derby in April 2020. A further 3kg was found in a wardrobe during a subsequent warrant, along with £20,000 in £1,000 bundles from a locked tin.


The extent of the cash being turned over was shown even more starkly when, during further warrants in June 2020, officers found £530k at an apartment in London.


The majority of the gang was sentenced at Derby Crown Court on Friday 7 January. Three others will be dealt with next month. For more details, click here.


DCI Tim Walters, who led the investigation, said: "This was a massive undertaking by a very skilled and determined investigation team to dismantle a gang responsible for the industrial scale wholesale supply of cocaine across the country, along with the movement of millions of pounds in criminal cash each week.


"While the gang's use of a 'token' system to monitor their cash flow and the encrypted EncroChat handsets to coordinate their business showed a level of sophistication, they merely acted as a breadcrumb trail for us to see the scale of the 'business', and identify each member of the organised crime group, as well as every sale they had made.


"The hefty sentences given today are not only a testament to an impressive regional investigation, but also to the power of collaborative law enforcement on a national and international scale.


"And we've not finished yet. Through the Proceeds of Crime Act we will now seek to identify and seize any assets amounted from the running of this illicit enterprise, to ensure those responsible are not only stripped of their freedom, but also of any profits made through their criminal activities."