The Police Service of Northern Ireland has conducted 63 searches since July as part of its continued involvement in Operation Venetic, the UK’s biggest law enforcement operation against serious and organised criminality.
It is being led by the National Crime Agency and targets organised crime groups operating using encrypted technology in a bid to evade law enforcement.
Crime Operations Assistant Chief Constable Barbara Gray said: “Detectives from Criminal Investigations Branch continue to play their part in the UK’s biggest law enforcement operation against serious and organised criminality.
“To date we have arrested 24 people across Northern Ireland, which have resulted in 23 people being charged with a total of 157 offences including Conspiracy to Murder and Possession of Firearms, as well as importation and possession of Class A, B and C controlled drugs, associated conspiracy offences and money laundering. Nine of those charged are currently remanded in NI, with one remanded in the Republic of Ireland.
“During the 63 searches officers have seized 43 items, over £400,000 of cash and 14 ‘Encro’ phones.
“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.
“The PSNI is determined to try and eradicate all harm caused to our communities and that is why our involvement in Operation Venetic is a priority. It is the largest and most significant law enforcement operation ever mounted in the United Kingdom in the fight against organised crime groups and 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 this is clearly not the case and our results demonstrate that, through the combined strength of PSNI working in partnership with our law enforcement partners, that no-one is beyond the reach of the law.
“As well as the Encro phones and over £400,000 of cash, suspected Class A and B drugs have been seized, including significant quantities of suspected cannabis and cocaine. Numerous pieces of documentation, 22 high-value vehicles, three crossbows and 826 rounds of ammunition and a significant number of mobile telephones, tablets, laptops and memory sticks have also been seized as well as jewellery and designer handbags and a large quantity of signed sports memorabilia. Significantly, PSNI has mitigated over 15 threats to life during the operation.
“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.”