UK police arrest ‘iconic’ criminals in biggest ever operation after encryption breakthrough

British police have made 746 arrests, claimed £54 million ($67 million) in criminal cash, seized 77 firearms, including an assault rifle and sub-machine guns, and more than two tons of drugs in the operation. (Photo: Metropolitan Police)
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Updated 02 July 2020

UK police arrest ‘iconic’ criminals in biggest ever operation after encryption breakthrough

  • National Crime Agency (NCA) said the cracking of the encryption used by EncroChat had allowed detectives across the country to make almost 750 arrests

LONDON: British police said on Thursday they had carried out their biggest operation ever, arresting “iconic” figures and smashing thousands of conspiracies including murder plots after infiltrating a communications service used by criminals.
The National Crime Agency (NCA) said the cracking of the encryption used by EncroChat, which offered a secure mobile phone instant messaging service and was used by criminals to coordinate their activities, had allowed detectives across the country to make almost 750 arrests.
The agency said it also meant a specialist team had been able to stop rival gangs carrying out kidnappings and executions, “successfully mitigating over 200 threats to life.”

“Together we’ve protected the public by arresting middle-tier criminals and the kingpins, the so-called iconic untouchables who have evaded law enforcement for years, and now we have the evidence to prosecute them,” said NCA Director of Investigations Nikki Holland.
The NCA said it had been working with international partners since 2016 to crack EncroChat which it described as a bespoke encrypted global communications service used exclusively by criminals.




The biggest police bust of its kind seized some 77 firearms, like the one pictured here during the efforts of the Metropolitan Police in the joint operation. (Photo: Metropolitan Police)

Two months ago, French and Dutch investigators infiltrated the platform, which had 60,000 users worldwide and around 10,000 in the UK and shared the data via Europol, allowing the authorities to monitor criminals’ messages and movements.
EncroChat, which has now been shut down, had advised its users to throw away their handsets on June 13 after realizing it had been compromised.




A quantity of drugs seized under Operation Venetic. (Photo: Metropolitan Police)

However, British police have made 746 arrests, claimed £54 million ($67 million) in criminal cash, seized 77 firearms, including an assault rifle and sub-machine guns, and more than two tons of drugs, the NCA said.
It added that entire networks had been dismantled in the most significant operation of its kind. Other European law enforcement agencies have also used the information to target crime groups.


Muslim woman accuses McDonald's franchisee of discrimination

Updated 28 min 12 sec ago

Muslim woman accuses McDonald's franchisee of discrimination

  • The general manager prohibited Powell from praying in a quiet spot at the airport
  • He told her to to pray in a dirty stock room instead

SILVER SPRING: A Muslim woman who worked for a McDonald’s franchisee in Maryland claims managers and co-workers sexually harassed her and subjected her to religious discrimination after she converted to Islam.
Diamond Powell, 28, of Baltimore, sued her former employer, Susdewitt Management LLC of Lanham, Maryland, on Thursday with the backing of attorneys from the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Muslim civil rights group.
The Morgan State University graduate was Christian in 2016 when she started working for the company, which operated two McDonald’s locations at Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport. Powell converted to Islam in February 2017 and began wearing a hijab, a religious head covering, to work.
A manager told her to “take that hoodie off” her head while another manager told her, “You don’t have to wait for God to wake up for you to pray,” Powell’s federal lawsuit alleges.
Powell has a religious belief that she must pray five times a day at prescribed times. A general manager initially granted Powell’s request to take short prayer breaks during her shifts, according to her lawsuit.
“Her prayer breaks lasted no longer than a typical bathroom break,” the suit says.
But the general manager prohibited Powell from praying in a quiet spot at the airport and instead told her to pray in a dirty stock room, the lawsuit alleges. After Powell continued praying outside the restaurant, the general manager eventually revoked her request to take a prayer break, saying, “God will understand,” according to the lawsuit.
“By doing so, the general manager forced Powell to choose between continuing her employment with McDonald’s or sacrificing her sincerely-held religious beliefs,” the suit says.
Powell resigned from the job in April 2018. Her suit accuses Susdewitt Management of violating the Maryland Fair Employment Practices Act and the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Susdewitt Management owner Isaac Green disputed the lawsuit’s “characterizations” but said the company is reviewing Powell’s allegations and will “respond accordingly.”
“We pride ourselves on our diverse workforce, and we have policies in place to provide a welcoming workplace and to respect the accommodations employees may need for religious reasons,” Green said in a statement provided by a McDonald’s corporate spokeswoman.
The suit also claims Powell was sexually harassed at work, with several managers and co-workers asking her if she was a virgin and a shift manager making sexually explicit remarks.
“No Muslim woman should ever, ever experience what I went through, and I hope this lawsuit will help other Muslim women,” Powell said Thursday during an online news conference with her attorneys.
Zainab Chaudry, director of CAIR's Maryland office, said the group has seen an uptick in the number of incidents in which Muslims have experienced hostile work environments because of their faith.
“Unfortunately, this disturbing case is a glaring reminder of the challenges that Muslim employees often face within the workplace,” she said.