Surrey and Sussex Police have taken part in a large international operation targeting serious and organised crime.
Arrests and drugs seizures have already taken place and investigations are continuing across both counties.
The National Crime Agency (NCA) has been working in partnership with every Regional Organised Crime Unit and police force both in the UK and overseas, in an operation which is previously unmatched in its scale in the UK.
To ensure success, details of this operation have, until now, been withheld.
Since April, regional and local units have been sharing data with the NCA and European partners relating to a specific encrypted criminal messaging system, Encrochat.
Thousands of handsets have been monitored, millions of messages have been analysed and intelligence gathered across the country and overseas has revealed the illicit activity of people using this system around the world.
This international response has allowed police intervention to mitigate a number of dangers such as threats to life, murder conspiracies and has led to a vast seizure of firearms and illicit drugs.
In Surrey and Sussex police have so far searched 14 addresses, seized six kilos of illicit drugs including heroin and cocaine, plus £323,000 cash, and have made five arrests all of whom have been released but are subject of further enquiries.
Operations in Surrey and Sussex so far have included;
On 4 May search warrants were executed in Haslemere in Surrey and Midhurst in Sussex. During this, half a kilo of cocaine was seized and more than £260,000 cash was seized. A 38 year old man from Guildford was arrested on suspicion of supplying class A drugs and money laundering offences. He has been released under investigation.
On 7 May, officers stopped a Renault Twingo car in Addlestone and conducted a search. During the search a purpose built hide/concealed compartment was located under the front passenger seat. Within the hide police found cash estimated to be £40,000. A 30 year old man from Weybridge was arrested on suspicion of supplying drugs and money laundering offences and was later released under investigation.
On 8 June a 38-year-old man from Sandhurst, Berkshire, was stopped in his vehicle. Two kilos of cannabis, 1.5 kilos of Class C drugs, and £23,000 cash were seized. The man was arrested on suspicion of supplying a controlled substance and was later released under investigation. He had also previously been released on prison licence part of the way through a sentence for a drug supply conviction, and after officers liaised with Probation he was recalled to serve the remainder of his sentence.
On 19 June officers executed a drugs warrant at an address in St Leonards Rd, Bexhill. Half a kilo of heroin (see picture in this Release) was seized. A man aged 29 and a woman aged 18 were arrested on suspicion of being concerned in the supply of Class A drugs. After being interviewed the man was released on police bail until 17 July, and the woman was released under investigation.
Detective Chief Inspector Andy Bennett of the Surrey and Sussex Police Specialist Crime Command said; “This was a large scale international operation in which both Sussex and Surrey police were very keen to take an active part in.
“Working with our partners at a regional and national level we have been able to increase our effectiveness in tackling serious and organised crime, resulting in a number of arrests, taking large quantities of controlled drugs out of circulation and seizing criminal assets. We have many live investigations that will continue and anticipate further developments over the coming weeks.
“This is another example of how law enforcement agencies from across the country are working together to protect our communities, catch criminals, and disrupt those intent on causing harm.”
Across the region, including Sussex, Surrey, Thames Valley and Hampshire operations resulted in more than £3,129,900 being seized along with two firearms and over 90kg of drugs.
In addition, 45 arrests were made for offences including possession with intent to supply and money laundering offences.
Assistant Chief Constable Pete O’Doherty, South East Regional lead for Counter Terrorism and Organised Crime, said: “
Operation Venetic, led by the National Crime Agency, has been a success due to the partnership working involved across all of policing, both in the UK and abroad.
“The operations carried out across the South East region would not have been possible without our local police forces involvement and support.
“This has not only been the biggest operation to take place in the South East but the results are deeply significant as well. Not only with the goods seized but also the disruption this will cause to serious and organised crime groups operating in our communities.
“I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the SEROCU investigators and all the forces and officers from across the South East for their tireless work.
“These criminals may have felt untouchable, using a system they thought was under the radar of law enforcement, but this technology is now being used against them.
“A committed joint objective by law enforcement across the country will be to continue to keep one step ahead of these criminals.
“There is still work to be done and SEROCU and our partners are dedicated to pursuing those who are involved in serious and organised crime and will continue to disrupt this criminality and bring those found to be involved to justice.”
Together, police and public can tackle drug crime and reduce the harm to communities. If you suspect drug dealing is taking place in your local area, tell us. Don’t leave it to someone else. You can report online, or by calling 101, but in an emergency, always call 999.