The Cocaine Kingpins’ Game
Drug kingpins mastered the art of concealing their illicit empires by operating in plain sight until they were eventually exposed through their incriminating conversations on an encrypted messaging platform.
In one instance, the affluent haulage magnate, Thomas Maher, unabashedly declared, “I’m at this game the last 20 odd years, pal.
I’m not an overnight success, so I know the way of plays.” He ran an extensive drug ring across Europe right from his living room.
Legitimate Front, Illicit Business
Richard Weild, another drug boss, operating under the alias Blacklable on EncroChat, bragged about making £30,000 a week while masquerading as a legitimate businessman running the Gas Works Motor Company.
He nonchalantly discussed his pursuit of “life-changing money” by manufacturing cocaine and engaging in drug-related activities.
In another conversation, he boasted about his financial success and how he managed to maintain a low profile while accumulating wealth.
The Cost of Illicit Gains
Thomas Maher, based in Warrington, faced the consequences of his actions in 2020 when he was sentenced to more than 14 years in prison at Liverpool Crown Court.
He admitted to two charges of importing Class A drugs into the UK and two charges of money laundering.
Maher’s ill-gotten wealth funded a lavish lifestyle, including expensive cars, luxurious holidays totaling £90,000, and a collection of valuable jewelry. Notably, he paid himself a minimum wage at his company for tax purposes.
Behind Bars for Deception
Richard Weild, hailing from Wallasey, Merseyside, was sentenced to 19 years in prison in March of the same year.
He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply various drugs, including cocaine, heroin, MDMA, 2-CB, and cannabis, as well as transferring criminal proceeds.
Law enforcement authorities seized approximately 20 kilograms of Class A and B drugs from his safe house.
Family Life and Criminal Operations
The audacity of some drug kingpins extended to conducting their criminal enterprises while taking their children to school. These criminals orchestrated murder and drug dealing through the encrypted messaging platform, believing in its security. The infiltration of this platform led to the incarceration of more than 1,200 criminals, with police even relying on selfies shared among them for identification.
The EncroChat Crackdown The National Crime Agency (NCA) spearheaded the response in the UK after Dutch and French officials dismantled the EncroChat network, leading to 3,100 arrests. Criminals underestimated the security of EncroChat, with some incriminating themselves through photographs, including images of their pets. The operation marked a significant step forward in combating organized crime.
Metropolitan Police’s Impact
The Metropolitan Police played a pivotal role in Operation Eternal, targeting EncroChat.
A total of 426 criminals were convicted, serving a collective sentence of 3,722 years. Law enforcement seized three tonnes of Class A and B drugs, along with 49 firearms.
EncroChat exposed the hidden kingpins of organized crime in London, bringing them to justice.
Looking to the Future
EncroChat’s shutdown led to 942 arrests within Operation Eternal, with 784 individuals charged and 426 convicted. Notably, the police are preparing for significant trials involving iconic criminals.
The investigation, known as Operation Venetic, resulted in 3,100 suspects arrested and 1,867 charged, with over 7,000 mobile devices collected and 18 million messages logged.
The Met is working with the Home Office to explore potential legislative frameworks for encrypted platforms in the future.