Cavan businessman Roger O’Grady charged with conspiracy to import cocaine https://www.sundayworld.com/crime/courts/cavan-businessman-roger-ogrady-charged-with-conspiracy-to-import-cocaine-40636589.html
Category: Encrypted Encrochat mobile handsets
30 in the North of Ireland face court for drug dealing
North of Ireland charges part of Europe-wide investigation of encrypted phone network
UP TO 30 people in the North of Ireland face prosecution in connection with a Europe-wide investigation into organised drug dealing.
The developing scale of the offensive against suspected crime networks using encrypted communications emerged as a 55-year-old Belfast man faced allegations of involvement in high-value cocaine and cannabis trading. Eamon Cullen was arrested after searches at his Upper Lisburn Road home on Monday. He appeared before Belfast Magistrates Court charged with being concerned in the supply of class-A and B drugs. Mr Cullen is further accused of possessing, transferring and entering an arrangement to acquire criminal property between March and June. The case relates to raids carried out as part of the National Crime agency-led Operation Venetic.
Robin Steer, prosecuting, said inquiries began when French authorities accessed data and messages from encrypted phone handsets costing up to £1,500 each. “At the minute there are about 20-30 people going through the courts [in the North of Ireland],” he said. Mr Steer said messages show Mr Cullen arranged a meeting with someone at a garage near his home. The communications allegedly link the defendant to large amounts of cash and drugs, with references to a “bill of £330,000” for one consignment and other slang terms for cocaine and cannabis.
Philip Breen, defending, said his client would not flee if released. He said Mr Cullen was out at work when police searched his house but honoured an arrangement to call at a PSNI/RUC station on Tuesday. “There’s no reason to think he’s not going to turn up for trial,” Mr Breen said. Bail was granted on condition that Mr Cullen provides a £5,000 surety, surrenders any passports and abides by a curfew. District Judge Fiona Bagnall banned him from using a mobile or accessing the internet. Mr Cullen is due to appear back in court in four weeks.
With many thanks to: The Irish News for the original story
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Gang suspect held in Encrochat sting
PHONE DATA IS USED IN EVIDENCE
AN alleged Dublin gangster has been charged with being “heavily involved” in the large-scale distribution of cocaine and cannabis in a charge linked to encrypted phones.
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With Aymen Shebani appearing at Banbridge Magistrates Court via Videolink from police custody, a prosecution lawyer told the court that as a result of previously encrypted phone being lawfully accessed, the police believe the 38-year-old has been involved in conspiracies to import and supply drugs and to possess a gun. Shebani, originally from Dublin but whose address was listed as Carney Hall in Newry, appeared in court on Thursday 23rd July facing five drugs charges accusing him of conspiring to import cannabis, conspiring to possessing the class B drug and cocaine with intent to supply, and being concerned in supplying cocaine and cannabis. Shebani was also charged with conspiring with other to possess a firearm with intent to endanger life and with entering an arrangement to acquire criminal property, all alleged to have been committed between March 25th and June 15th this year. The following photographs have nothing personally to do with this case but are to do with other cases where drugs and cash were recovered during Operation Venetic.
During a contested bail application prosecuting lawyer Robin Steer told the court, which was sitting in Lisburn, that “essentially, this began when the police were able to access encrypted phone data, incoming and outgoing text messages as well as images being sent”. That investigation has been labelled as Operation Venetic as police forces across Europe strive to tackle organised crime and to date, eight men have appeared in courts across the North of Ireland on a raft of charges arising from investigators accessing previously encrypted phones. Outlining how encrypted phones do not use the same communication networks as normal phones with data allowances costing the user around £1,500 every six months, Mr Steer said that, similarly to other cases which have recently been before the courts, “police don’t have the handset but they believe that the messages can be attributed to this defendant circumstantially by reason of their content”. He told District Judge Amanda Henderson the police had been able to access a “very large number of messages referring to cocaine and cannabis, importing drugs from Spain, the movement of very large amounts of cash and quantities of drugs.
“Also messages which referred to a firearm using the slang words of ‘using a drill’,” said Mr Steer, claiming that Shebani’s encrypted username was “waterquail.” Turning to how police believe they can connect Shebani to the hacked data, the lawyer detailed how:◾The user ‘waterquail’ had sent another user a message on May 26th “that he’d had a baby boy on Friday” ◾Sent a photo of the baby, confirmed his name and said that he “is a ringer” for one of Shebani’s other children ◾Referred to Chelsea Bollard in a message ◾An image uncovered on the encrypted phone had a partial image of Shebani lying with the newborn baby ◾Refers to a Niall in a message. The court heard how all of that ties in with Shebani and when cops raided his house on June 15th, Shebani’s partner Chelsea Bollard was there with the couple’s newborn son who has the same name as the baby referred to in the intercepted messages.
Police investigations are ongoing in that officers are seeking to obtain a copy of the baby’s birthday certificate, said Mr Steer, adding that in relation to bail objections, police had concerns that he would reoffend or would abscond. He revealed that Shebani was jailed for six months in 2010 for concealing criminal property in that he had failed to declare €62,000 and €3,000 that had been found in his then-home near Derry. The money was found in an apartment at Dunhugh Manor in Newbuildings during a search in November 2009, with Shebani claiming he had earned the money from buying and selling cars. Mr Steer said Shebani had been on bail for those charges but had absconded for over two months, highlighting that “he is from Dublin” with connections to the South so there was a risk of flight. He said while there is “nothing terribly significant” on Shebani’s criminal record in the South, the lawyer claimed that “he is known to have criminal connections to organised crime groups in Dublin.
Giving evidence to the court, Detective Constable Kincaid agreed with defence counsel Aaron Thompson that “this isn’t a typical drug or criminal property case” where investigators have physically seized materials which they can connect to a defendant but rather “it’s derived from intelligence” and data from previously encrypted phones. The officer agreed that numerous phones and laptops were seized from Shebani’s property but told the lawyer that as they’re still being examined, he “cannot determine” whether any of them are the encrypted device Shebani is alleged to have used. As regards the supposed risk of flight, the officer conceded that he was not aware that Shebani had been on bail and had adhered to conditions for several months in relation to an offence which was later dropped.
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What the court did not hear on Thursday was how that dropped charge was of attempting to murder Simon O’Connor who was stabbed in Newry on St Patrick’s Day 2012. Shebani had also been charged with two counts of threatening to kill O’Connor in relation to the alleged street attack that left O’Connor with life-threatening injuries but they were dropped by the PPS as well. The judge said while “it’s an unusual case… what concerns me here is that Mr Steer outlined very personal details taken from the data that point very strongly to the defendant. “The police have outlined to me what they have described as heavy involvement in very serious crime, very serious drugs crime and eBay causes me very real concern,” said the judge, adding that she was satisfied “there’s strong evidence to connect him to the contents if the phone and the movement of cash and drugs”. The judge said she was refusing the application for bail because if the risk of Shebani committing further offences. He was remanded into custody and his case was adjourned to August 20th.
With many thanks to the: Sunday World for the original story
Application for Anonymity granted in major Operation Venetic encrypted communications drug importation case | Madden & Finucane Solicitors
What the EncroChat Busts Tell Us About Organised Crime in Europe – VICE
RUC/PSNI conduct more than two dozen searches and make arrests during Operation into serious and organised criminality
In recent weeks, PSNI carried out 25 searches across Northern Ireland as part of the National Crime Agency-led operation, Operation Venetic, working in collaboration with several other law enforcement partners across Europe and internationally.
‘Op Venetic’ targeted organised crime groups operating using encrypted technology in a bid to evade law enforcement. To date, PSNI searches here in Northern Ireland have resulted in the seizure of 15 ‘Encro’ phones and more than £360,000 in cash.
Detective Chief Superintendent Freeburn said: “I’m really proud to tell you about the role that the Police Service of Northern Ireland have played in this.
“We all know that serious and organised criminals pose a significant risk of harm to the people of Northern Ireland. They are responsible for bringing in drugs and firearms into our communities and deal in fear and exploitation which can bring misery to many.
“This has been the largest and most significant law enforcement operation ever mounted in the United Kingdom in the fight against organised crime groups. It has focused on attacking their use of encrypted communication called Encro devices on which individual members of crime groups co-ordinate their illegal activities.
“The organised crime groups thought that by using encrypted technology they could fly below the radar of law enforcement, however this operation should send a clear message that the combined strength of PSNI working in partnership with our law enforcement partners that no-one is beyond the reach of the law.
“Over the past couple of months, Detectives from our Criminal Investigations Branch have worked tirelessly with our partners in the National Crime Agency and Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs in reviewing this material and assessing what criminal offences have been committed.”
As well as the Encro phones and cash, suspected Class A and B drugs were seized, including 2.5kgs of suspected cannabis and cocaine. Three high-value vehicles and numerous pieces of documentation, laptops, a number of items of jewellery and designer handbags were also seized. Significantly, PSNI has mitigated over 15 threats to life during the operation.
Detective Chief Superintendent Freeburn: “We have secured evidence to prosecute a significant number of known criminals who thought they were beyond our reach. In Northern Ireland we have charged five people, four of whom have all been remanded in custody and one on High Court bail. The 44 charges range from conspiracy to commit murder, possession of significant amounts of criminal property, various drugs offences involving Class A and Class B drugs including conspiracy to import and also being concerned in the supply.
“This morning (Thursday, 2nd July) we have also arrested a 64-year-old man in the Newry area. Searches are currently ongoing and so we have seized another high end vehicle so far.
“And there will more to come as we continue to disrupt this criminal network operating here in Northern Ireland who have links to criminals both nationally and internationally.”
Deputy Director of Investigations for Northern Ireland, Scotland and the North of England, Craig Naylor, NCA said: “Operation Venetic is unprecedented across Northern Ireland, the United Kingdom and Europe. It is the broadest and most significant co-ordinated piece of activity into serious organised crime intended to cause significant damage to organised crime groups.
“The NCA has worked with international partners and every single police force across the UK, to achieve these extraordinary results. Our partnerships with policing and especially the PSNI has allowed us to operate to dismantle groups that were previously thought to be beyond the reach of law enforcement.
“By working together we have penetrated organised criminal networks who thought they were untouchable by seizing significant amounts of criminal cash, stopping firearms and drugs reaching our streets to protect the people of Northern Ireland.”
With many thanks to the: PSNI NI, was directly taken from their website
Leading Co Tyrone republican’s home searched in encrypted calls probe
A LEADING Co Tyrone republican’s house is among a number of properties searched as part of an investigation into organised criminality linked to the breach of the Encrochat communications network
Dozens in court following encrypted handset breach
A BREACH of one of the world’s most secure communications networks has resulted in a number of people appearing in court in the North of Ireland, with dozens of other cases expected in the coming weeks.
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