More than 30 arrests have been made across the South West, with two guns, 17kg cocaine, 5kg MDMA, £790k cash and several high value cars and jewellery seized as part of the region’s response to Operation Venetic, the UK’s biggest ever law enforcement operation.
The South West Regional Organised Crime Unit (SW ROCU) has worked alongside the National Crime Agency and regional forces including Avon and Somerset Police to act on intelligence uncovered through the takedown of EncroChat, a bespoke encrypted global communication service used exclusively by criminals.
In Bath and Bristol, 11 people suspected of being involved in a conspiracy to supply wholesale amounts of Class A drugs in the region and launder hundreds of thousands of pounds were arrested. Six suspected encrypted phones were seized from five of them, as well as a Glock handgun, conversion kit, silencer, ammunition, eight kilos of suspected cocaine, four kilos of suspected crystal MDMA, thousands of suspected ecstasy tablets, a hydraulic press, £100k cash and a number of high value vehicles. A further 400k cash was also seized from a car that travelled from Bath to London.
Another investigation has seen three men arrested from Weston-super-Mare, Portishead and Shirehampton in Bristol on suspicion of money laundering and conspiracy to supply Class A drugs, with £30k cash seized from the Shirehampton address and a number of high value Rolex watches from two of the suspects.
SW ROCU also supported Dorset Police to take action against two suspected organised crime groups under Operation Venetic.
A series of warrants across Bournemouth led to 11 arrests for drugs and firearms offences, with £80,000 cash, around eight kilos of suspected Class A drugs worth around £300k and a firearm seized.
In a separate operation, a man and woman from Dorset were stopped in their car in south London, arrested, and £80k cash seized from their vehicle. A series of warrants in Bournemouth, Christchurch and London led to a large amount of suspected controlled drugs and further cash being found, with three men from London and one man from Dorset arrested.
Head of the SW ROCU, Det Supt Tina Robinson, said: “These results are part of a phenomenal effort across law enforcement in the past few months, which has seen us target organised criminals based in our area, as well as support the wider network to disrupt those that harm our region. And this work continues.
“Criminals using these devices, which have a kill code to enable them to be wiped remotely, thought they could communicate freely and securely. Instead, they have provided evidence that could undoubtedly see them locked up for years and the wealth they’ve acquired stripped away.
“Intimidation and violence go hand in hand with serious and organised crime – that’s clear when you look at the weapons seized both here and across the country. By collectively dismantling these groups, lives have been saved and communities across the region have been protected.”
NCA deputy director Matt Horne said:
“This nationally coordinated activity, against harmful organised criminal networks operating across the UK, is unprecedented in scale. It is without doubt the broadest and deepest ever operation against serious organised crime, targeting those at the top of the criminal tree.
“The NCA has worked with international partners and every single police force across the UK, but the extraordinary results we have achieved is testimony to the partnership we have with colleagues in the South West Regional Organised Crime Unit.
“By working together we have had tremendous success in penetrating and disrupting organised criminal networks, arresting the ‘kingpins’, seizing huge amounts of criminal cash, stopping firearms and drugs reaching our streets and protecting the people of the South West.”