Top-level criminals spoke of their terror after realising the UK's crack law enforcement teams had smashed their secret phone network and were poised to "come in hard and fast" like a "pack of hyenas."
A catalogue of damning messages shared among kingpins from the underworld – which signalled their anxiety when they realised the National Crime Agency were on their tail – can be revealed today.
Significant actions was taken on the streets of Merseyside, with 30 arrests, the recovery of more than £2m in cash, 25 kilos of Class A drugs, 450 cannabis plants, 28 kilos of Class B drugs and 1.5 tonnes of mixing agents.
Execution and kidnap plots in Liverpool and its surrounding boroughs were also identified by police and halted it's been confirmed, as part of an overall assault on serious crime described as the biggest the UK has ever seen.
Among the conversations which took place as detectives closed the net around the controversial EncroChat military-grade encrypted communications hub was one that said: "That’s naughty when the big boys like NCA and flying squad come, it's not good, they wont stop."
One wannabe gangster told his associates: "I’m moving my family from UK this year because NCA is getting too smart."
Another admitted on the modified Android phones, which cost £1,500 for just six months of use: "Yeah if NCA are on him.
"Defiantly[sic] not the firm that go away. That like a pack of hyenigas[sic]."
It was added: "….When NCA come…….., they gona[sic] come in hard and fast."
Another sighed: "The police scoring goals…mother f****er."
This release of nearly 30 EncroChat messages demonstrates how high-end criminals were genuinely fearful of police, despite their untouchable reputation.
Paranoia grew within the underworld circles and their phone chatter, with a tangible sense that their days were numbered and the knock at the door, or a battering ram, was not far away.
There were 60,000 EncroChat users identified by the NCA, with 10,000 in the UK, and several hundreds – possibly as many as 1,000 – on Merseyside.
These message show the pressure they felt ahead of a swoop by detectives across Britain and the wider continent.
In one, an offender says: “Yeh, its NCA wanna worry about.”
Another said: “If ye got that NCA on ye m8[sic]/ ye got problems for sure and heavy bird m8.”
One criminal wrote: “Bro, NCA come after you there is no work these bast***ds had intel on everything.”
And another put it simply: “The police are winning this year.”
Expert computer boffins managed to crack the phone system in April, with French and Dutch professionals at the forefront.
It gave investigators a never-seen-before full glimpse into the activities of criminals trading in, and making a livelihood from, guns and Class A drugs.
That information was fed back to police squads all around the UK, including Merseyside, with frantic activity within the last 30 days.
Other messages included, "Bro trust me NCA is like M15 for our business."
And they went on and on:
– “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."
– “NCA are the worst bro."
“NCA taken too many people out."
“These NCA are no joke.
“Be scared of NCA.”
“Thing is we need to know becoz[sic] if NCA then we have a big problem.”
– “So many ppl[sic] been took down here, NCA been clearing up”
– “NCA scary bast**ds”
– “Yeah have you seen NCA site,,,there getting everyone.”
– “The police are having a field day”
– “Mate, police are winning war at min[sic], like”
– “Yes I thought this for last 6 months, police having too much success”
– “The police are on one.”
Video Loading Click to play Tap to play The video will start in8Cancel Play now
On June 13, EncroChat itself realised its platform had been breached and it urged its users, many of them shadowy criminals, to throw away their phones.
But for many it was too late with vital intelligence already harvested which led police on Merseyside and all over Britain to firearms, huge caches of heroin, cocaine and other drugs, piles of ill-gotten cash, and luxury items bought with the profits of large-scale crime.
Notable hauls on Merseyside were three guns found in a loft of a home on John Bagot Close in Everton, and big drugs seizures on Crosby, Garston, Aintree, Huyton, Mossley Hill, Bootle, Bowring Park, Dovecot and West Derby.
On Wednesday alone, five early morning warrants were executed in locations including Melling, Halewood and Anfield.
Three men, one in his 50s from Melling, and two men, in their 30s, from Anfield, were arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to supply guns, cocaine and cannabis.
Nationally, more than 746 arrests have been made because of the data with seizures of more than £54m in criminal cash, two tonnes of drugs, 77 firearms and 200 threats to life averted.
The EncroChat system and its handsets, now in tatters because of Operation Venetic, could only be used to communicate with other similar devices and had no other smartphone functionality other than one app – a currency converter to help calculate profit on deals.
NCA deputy director investigations Matt Horne, who was also Gold Commander for the operation, 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?
See what crime is like where you live by putting in your postcode
“But they should know 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.
“NCA officers and our policing partners are fired up about this fight and about protecting the UK.
“Though the UK comments are rightly about the NCA’s and police’s tenacity, they’re also testament to how well international law enforcement works together and pulls in the same direction.”