More than £21 million worth of Class A drugs and £1.85 million in cash have been seized in Essex by the Serious Crime Directorate as part of an international operation targeting serious and organised crime.
A total of 155.5kg of Class A drugs was recovered during activity since 1 May which has also seen 13 people arrested.
It is part of an international operation, led in the UK by the National Crime Agency, to tackle serious and organised crime which involved the takedown of a bespoke encrypted global communication service used exclusively by criminals.
EncroChat offered a secure mobile phone instant messaging service with 60,000 users worldwide and around 10,000 in the UK. The primary use was for co-ordinating and planning criminal activities including the distribution of illicit commodities and money laundering.
Since 2016, the NCA has worked with international law enforcement agencies to target EncroChat, and other encrypted criminal communications platforms, and two months ago agencies in France and the Netherlands infiltrated the platform.
The intelligence gleaned through this was then shared via Europol to national law enforcement agencies.
Some of this intelligence involved the sale of Class A drugs in Essex and we have worked with the NCA and the Eastern Region Serious Operations Unit (ERSOU) to co-ordinate a series of proactive operations to tackle.
This has included the discovery of 138kg of cocaine and 8kg of heroin, with a combined street value of £20 million, in a lorry at the Port of Harwich on 1 June.
A 43 year-old man, Marcin Jadasz from Prudnik in Poland, was arrested and has since been charged with two counts of importing a Class A drug with intent to evade a prohibition or restriction.
During another operation drugs and £80,000 in cash were discovered when officers executed a warrant in Hullbridge on 23 May.
Three men were subsequently arrested.
David Mifsud, 46, of Thorpendene Avenue Hullbridge, 31 year-old Scott Hearn, of Southernhay, Basildon, and Thomas Dowman, 28, of Lettons Chase, South Woodham Ferrers, have now all been charged with possession with intent Class A drugs.
Three other people have been charged in connection with another investigation.
Officers stopped a vehicle on the A13 at the junction with the M25 on 13 May and discovered £750,000 in cash inside.
Lee Smith, 42, of Longwood Gardens, Ilford, was arrested and has since been charged with concealing, disguising, converting, transferring, or removing criminal property.
A further £750,000 in cash and 5kg of cocaine, with a street value of £500,000, was discovered when officers carried out a warrant in Basildon on 29 May. A man and a woman were arrested.
Eltion Ntema, 28, of Whitmore Way, Basildon, and 25 year-old Sibora Dema, of the same address, have since been charged with possession of a Class A drug with intent to supply and possession of criminal property.
Detective Chief Inspector Lee Morton, from the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate, said:
“These operations highlight our determination to disrupt serious and organised crime operating in Essex.
“In the last eight weeks we have seen some of the largest seizures of drugs and cash in the history of Essex Police and we’ve prevented a significant amount of drugs from getting into our communities.
“These results signify a substantial blow to organised crime in our county.
“Drugs cause misery in our communities and the selling of drugs is often linked to violence on our streets and the exploitation of vulnerable people.
“We will not tolerate this and will continue to disrupt the activities of those involved and work to bring them to justice.
“These operations also highlight how we are keeping you safe through excellent and effective partnership working with organisations such as the National Crime Agency, the Eastern Region Serious Operations Unit, and Border Force.”
Image: Essex Police