Detectives from the Police Service of Northern Ireland’s Organised Crime Branch have welcomed the sentence handed down to Samuel McKeag at Laganside Crown Court today (12 May).
McKeag, aged 37, received a sentence of three years – 18 months to be served in custody and 18 months on licence – having pleaded guilty to a number of offences. These include conspiracy to possess a Class A controlled drug with intent to supply, possessing criminal property, transferring criminal property and possessing counterfeit currency.
The sentencing is the first in Northern Ireland to result directly from Operation Venetic, led by the National Crime Agency (NCA).
Operation Venetic was the NCA-led UK law enforcement response to the takedown of EncroChat in 2020. This was an encrypted communication channel used by criminals to plan illegal activity, such as drug importations and the movement of cash.
Detective Inspector McCamley from the Police Service of Northern Ireland added: “McKeag was part of an organised crime gang involved in the supply of Class A and Class B controlled drugs, and involved in laundering hundreds of thousands of pounds. This was done through EncroChat.
"This investigation, and the subsequent sentencing, is a fallout from Operation Venetic.
“Throughout the investigation, we worked closely with partners, including the NCA and prosecutors from the Public Prosecution Service.
“It’s thanks to such collaborative efforts, backed up the digital forensic evidence recovered by detectives from the Police Service's Cyber Crime Centre, that we are able to arrest and subsequently bring McKeag before court. In fact, today’s sentencing is the first ever in Northern Ireland to result directly from the national-led operation.
"This is an example of our ongoing commitment to bring those involved in criminal activity to justice. Working alongside our partner agencies, we will continue to disrupt the movements and activities of organised crime gangs, who bring nothing but harm to local communities.”