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#Encrochat Stories: Business trumped gang rivalry

Analysis of the phone metadata has enabled the Metropolitan Police to build up a network diagram showing the links between different criminal groups, creating what is, in effect, a map of the criminal underworld.

The map has helped to overturn previous assumptions about gang rivalry. There may be conflicts between different groups of criminals, but that does not prevent them talking to each other. “Business trumps everything … everyone’s really talking to everyone else,” said Hayoukane.

Before the hacking operation, the Met did not know whether organised crime groups involved in drug smuggling were also involved in human trafficking. The Met’s network diagram reveals this is not the case.

Although human trafficking gangs did use EncroChat phones, they were far outnumbered by drug gangs, and there was little communication between the two groups. The Met found no evidence of terrorist gangs or paedophiles using EncroChat.

The data shows that many organised crime suspects had links with Dubai and the United Arab Emirates. They include Kashif Mahmoud, a corrupt former Metropolitan police officer who took part in heists staged by organised crime gangs on rival groups orchestrated from Dubai.

The country has replaced Marbella as the destination of choice for organised crime, said Hayoukane. “It’s got sunshine, people speak English, its easy to get to and it’s the hub to the world.” Another reason may be that extradition from Dubai to the UK is not always straightforward.

According to the National Crime Agency (NCA), working with the Regional Organised Crime Units, HMRC, and other government agencies, police across the UK have arrested over 3,000 people, leading to 1,000 convictions. Police have seized 173 firearms and 1,000 rounds of ammunition.

Add to this three tonnes of heroine, 14.5 tonnes of cannabis and £80m in seized cash, and the operation has clearly had a major impact on drug dealing and money laundering gangs.

Yet figures quoted by the BBC show that three years on from the EncroChat operation, there has been no measurable reduction in the use of illegal drugs in the UK.

When the police take out one kingpin, another steps in to take their place.

For Wayne Johns, a senior investigating officer at the NCA, it’s important to look at the bigger picture.

“If you’ve taken those weapons off the street, if you’ve taken that money off these individuals and, to be honest, if you’ve taken those drugs out of circulation, that’s six tonnes of drugs that aren’t on the street and aren't impacting communities,” he said.


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