A suspected prolific drug trafficker is set to face trial following an international operation to crack a popular encrypted chat network used by criminals, according to the National Crime Agency (NCA).
The UK agency for serious and organized crime revealed that 44-year-old Kamran Butt had been extradited to Germany, where he is now remanded in custody of the Bundeskriminalamt (federal police) awaiting trial.
A Hamburg judge issued a European arrest warrant for Butt in October 2020. He was subsequently found to be living in Woolwich, south-east London
He’s believed to have used the EncroChat platform for several years to arrange “multi-tonne” cocaine shipments from South America to Europe, working with an organized crime gang based in Albania and Germany, according to the NCA.
“Kamran Butt went to great lengths to avoid the attention of law enforcement in Germany and the UK, and is believed to have been using EncroChat to communicate with other members of the crime group,” said NCA deputy director, Andrea Wilson.
“We are determined to do all we can to tackle criminal drugs smuggling networks impacting on the UK, no matter where they are, and this case is a great example of collaborative work between the NCA and our colleagues in the BKA.”
The developers of EncroChat went to great lengths to protect the privacy of their criminal userbase before the network was busted last year.
Operating from servers in France, it was thought to be one of the largest such encrypted comms services around – with 60,000 global users, including 10,000 in the UK, who used it to smuggle contraband, coordinate money-laundering operations and even plan hits on rivals.
It required its own bespoke devices, with camera, mic, GPS and USB ports removed. Devices didn’t require users to link a SIM with their account, and users could remotely wipe the entire handset with a kill code.
Police in the UK arrested hundreds last year after cracking EncroChat. This August, two drug runners were sentenced to a combined 27 years after officers monitored their encrypted communications as part of Operation Venetic.
Phil Muncaster UK / EMEA News Reporter, Infosecurity Magazine