MORE than £21 million worth of Class A drugs and £1.85 million in cash has been seized in Essex – including hundreds of thousands worth in Basildon and Hullbridge.

Essex Police’s serious crime directorate has seized a total of 155.5 kilograms of Class A drugs since May 1 which has also seen 13 people arrested.


Some of the seized Class A drugs 

It is part of an international operation, led in the UK by the National Crime Agency, to tackle serious and organised crime which involved the takedown of an encrypted global communication service used exclusively by criminals.

During one operation drugs and £80,000 in cash were discovered when officers executed a warrant in Hullbridge on May 23.

Three men were subsequently arrested.

David Mifsud, 46, of Thorpendene Avenue Hullbridge, 31 year-old Scott Hearn, of Southernhay, Basildon, and Thomas Dowman, 28, of Lettons Chase, South Woodham Ferrers, have been charged with possession with intent Class A drugs.

A further £750,000 in cash and five kilograms of cocaine, with a street value of £500,000, was discovered when officers carried out a warrant in Basildon on May 29.

Eltion Ntema, 28, of Whitmore Way, Basildon, and 25-year-old Sibora Dema, of the same address, have since been charged with possession of a Class A drug with intent to supply and possession of criminal property.

There was also a discovery of 138 kilograms of cocaine and eight kilograms of heroin, with a combined street value of £20 million, on June 1.

A 43-year-old man, Marcin Jadasz from Prudnik in Poland, was arrested and has since been charged with two counts of importing a Class A drug with intent to evade a prohibition or restriction.

The encrypted service, EncroChat, offered a secure mobile phone instant messaging service with 60,000 users worldwide and around 10,000 in the UK.

The primary use was for co-ordinating and planning criminal activities including the distribution of illicit commodities and money laundering.

Since 2016, the NCA has worked with international law enforcement agencies to target EncroChat, and other encrypted criminal communications platforms, and two months ago agencies in France and the Netherlands infiltrated the platform.

The intelligence gleaned through this was then shared via Europol to national law enforcement agencies.


A cabinet full of drug money 

Det Chief Insp Lee Morton said: “These operations highlight our determination to disrupt serious and organised crime operating in Essex.

“In the last eight weeks we have seen some of the largest seizures of drugs and cash in the history of Essex Police and we’ve prevented a significant amount of drugs from getting into our communities.

“These results signify a substantial blow to organised crime in our county.

“Drugs cause misery in our communities and the selling of drugs is often linked to violence on our streets and the exploitation of vulnerable people.

“We will not tolerate this and will continue to disrupt the activities of those involved and work to bring them to justice.

“These operations also highlight how we are keeping you safe through excellent and effective partnership working with organisations such as the National Crime Agency, the Eastern Region Serious Operations Unit, and Border Force.”