Throughout 2022, the NCA and its partners have focused on targeting high-harm, high-impact criminals who exploit the vulnerable, dominate communities and chase criminal profits, and undermine the UK's economy, infrastructure and institutions.
This has resulted in a wide range of activity to pursue offenders through prosecution and disruption, prevent people from engaging in serious and organised crime, protect individuals, organisations and systems and prepare for when crime occurs.
Examples of this activity can be found in the timeline of success below.
The NCA wil degrade the most harmful organised crime groups and lead the UK's operational response.
We will continue to work closely with our operational partners, with Government and with the private and third sectors.
The NCA participated in an international investigation leading to the takedown of VPNLab (as shown in image), a service used by cyber criminals to facilitate their illicit activities. This global law enforcement operation resulted in 15 server infrastructures across the world hosting the VPNLab service being seized. VPNLab was established in 2008 offering virtual private network services on the dark net which cyber criminals used to create a criminal infrastructure and deploy ransomware to conduct cyber-attacks.
A sex offender and cyber voyeur who hacked computers to spy on victims was jailed for 26 months after he admitted illegally accessing victims’ electronic devices to spy on them and build a collection of indecent images of both children and adults. The offender utilised Remote Access Trojan (RAT) software that allows cyber criminals to remotely take over, monitor and control operations on their victims’ infected computer. NCA officers identified over 30 victims of his activity including a 13-year-old girl on whom he used his illegal access to spy on her through her webcam, turning the encounter into a number of indecent images.
A long-running civil recovery investigation resulted in the NCA obtaining a settlement of £530,000 against property held by the family of two brothers convicted of drug trafficking and money laundering. The NCA issued a claim for civil recovery in the High Court and successfully argued the criminals had profited from supplying Class A drugs for over a decade while trying to hide the wealth using their relatives’ identities and buying land and property in West Yorkshire between 2005 and 2018.
A powerful, well-connected, multi-millionaire and prominent Azerbaijan parliamentarian with links to the UK had £5.6 million held in UK bank accounts belonging to family members seized following a complex operation by officers from the Criminal Asset Denial Team. Investigators uncovered that illicit funds were being layered through a complex network of shell companies that operated bank accounts in Estonia and Latvia. Multiple entirely fictitious documents were produced to mask the underlying money laundering activities of those orchestrating the accounts within a significant money laundering scheme based in Azerbaijan, Estonia and Latvia.
Following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the NCA launched a number of initiatives to protect the UK from the Russian state and state linked criminals. The Combatting Kleptocracy Cell is part of a coordinated package of measures tackling the widespread abuse of the UK’s financial sectors by hostile states and corrupt elites to launder money and conceal the proceeds of crime. As of 4th January 2023, the Combatting Kleptocracy Cell has amassed 110 disruptions since the invasion of Ukraine. In addition, the National Cyber Crime Unit have been working closely with partners on the country’s cyber resilience, and ability to prevent, investigate and respond to any cyber attacks/ransomware from the Russian state and Russian organised crime groups. Meanwhile NCA Intelligence, Investigations and National Economic Crime Centre have been looking at further actions against licit and illicit funds flowing in to or through the UK.
A man who ran the UK arm of a major international organised criminal network dismantled by the NCA was jailed for 21 years for orchestrating the importation of multi-million pound drug shipments. The Irish male, part of an organised crime group involved in drugs supply, firearms and money laundering acted as the figurehead of the organisation in the UK. He lived with his family in a fortified mansion, complete with reinforced doors and bulletproof glass from where he ran his criminal empire. The raid following co-operation with An Garda Síochána (as shown in image) in Ireland was part of a wider investigation to dismantle his drugs empire, with officers also targeting his associates. Investigators were able to evidence involvement in large scale drug shipments worth about £30 million at UK street value, as well as movements of cash and firearms. Two of his associates were also convicted and received 20 and 19 year sentences.
A man and woman from Nottingham were arrested for sexually abusing a child and sharing the footage online. The man was arrested by the National Crime Agency in March 2022 after it was identified he had been discussing his sexual interest in children and uploading indecent material to an online child abuse group. The offender shared a video and a number of images which he had taken himself of a young child being sexually abused. Investigators identified that it was his female partner carrying out the abuse. The child was safeguarded early on in the investigation. In February 2023, the offenders were jailed for a total of 10 years.
Five individuals were collectively sentenced to 71 years’ imprisonment following a complex International Corruption Unit investigation around a convicted drug dealer who continued to run his criminal enterprise from prison alongside associates who helped him fix deals on the outside and launder the profits. Working with criminal associates across the UK and within the Netherlands, the crime group is believed to have been behind at least two tonnes of Class A drugs that were imported into the UK and sold across London and the South East. The three-year investigation dismantled an established criminal enterprise which had imported tonnes of cocaine to the UK. Criminal associates helped to launder cash through bank accounts, as well as making various payments to foreign drug suppliers and their UK associates (as shown in image).
A principal member of a drugs organised crime group was jailed for 20 years for supplying £21 million worth of cocaine. Officers from the Organised Crime Partnership (a joint NCA and Metropolitan Police unit) established that the group sourced and distributed huge quantities of cocaine and handled millions of pounds in associated cash (some of it shown in image). The criminals had also supplied quantities of ketamine throughout the south east of England. Five members of the gang had previously been jailed for a total of 68 years having been caught after the takedown of the encrypted communication system EncroChat which they had used to aid their criminality.
A drug smuggler who used a luxury yacht (as shown on left in image) to smuggle two tonnes of cocaine with a street value of up to £160 million into the UK was jailed for 18 years. The British man was aboard the Jamaican-flagged yacht when it was intercepted in international waters 80 miles off the coast of Plymouth in an operation led by the NCA and supported by Border Force and the Australian Federal Police. The suspect was the link between senior members of an international organised crime group and a UK criminal group that had planned to take delivery of the drugs near the English Channel.
A man who admitted raping and sexually assaulting a baby was given a life sentence of 27 years. The suspect was arrested in October 2021 after NCA investigators identified that he had uploaded a number of indecent images of children online. If ever released, he will remain on licence and on the sex offenders register for life.
An Albanian national, who was responsible for arranging for Albanian migrants to board vessels in France to be smuggled to the UK, was sentenced to four years and four months’ imprisonment. In total four suspects were convicted of conspiring together to breach UK immigration laws. The convictions result from a joint operation in June 2020 involving the South East Regional Organised Crime Unit (SEROCU), NCA and French authorities where five Albanian nationals were found on board an intercepted small boat. Two other criminal associates were also located on board the vessel and were subsequently prosecuted in France.
Four gang members who trained in chemistry techniques to run one of the largest amphetamine factories ever found in the UK were convicted. Investigators identified encrypted messaging platform EncroChat was being used to run a sophisticated and well established production facility near Redditch which was assessed as producing over 500kg of amphetamine per month and earning the gang in excess of £1 million per month at wholesale prices. The NCA investigation formed part of Operation VENETIC, the UK law enforcement response to the July 2020 takedown of the EncroChat encrypted communication service. It is believed that the laboratory (as shown in image) had been fully operational for about 12 months before the NCA dismantled it.
NCA officers working with Border Force seized more than half a tonne of cocaine at London Gateway port striking a huge blow to the criminal network involved in the shipment, preventing them from making millions of pounds that would have been invested in further criminality. The seizure was made from a consignment of bananas (as shown in image) that was destined for the Netherlands and had been shipped by boat to the UK from Colombia. Officers estimate the haul would have had a UK street value of more than £40 million once cut and sold.
NCA officers targeted a prolific people smuggling network, suspected of smuggling up to 10,000 people, in a joint international operation. The NCA deployed officers to Germany where more than 60 boats and 900 life jackets (as shown in image), which would have been used to transport people across the Channel, were recovered. Further boats, engines and life jackets were also found in the Netherlands, along with pumps used to inflate dinghies. In total the operation saw 135 boats, 45 outboard engines and more than 1,200 life jackets seized and 40 people arrested.
A child sex offender who targeted and blackmailed teenage girls online admitted 65 offences relating to 26 victims aged from 12 to 22-years-old. The 26-year-old suspect sought out young girls on online chat platforms where he would pretend to be a younger male and ask girls to send him a nude photo of themselves. He then used these initial pictures to make demands for increasingly graphic and depraved images. If they did not comply with his demands, he would threaten to release their images to their own friends and family via social media. In total 82 victims were identified and safeguarded, including children outside the UK. He was sentenced to a total of 18 years’ imprisonment.
In a case at the High Court a Yorkshire man agreed to forfeit properties and money worth £1.14 million to the NCA. It was alleged that he had been involved in serious criminality since the 1990s, including the importation and supply of drugs, money laundering, fraud, and tax evasion. It was further alleged that he had links to serious and organised criminals in the UK and overseas, including in the Netherlands and Spain, using his car dealership and property development businesses to launder the proceeds of his unlawful conduct. The NCA asserted that his declared income was not sufficient to fund his property purchases and luxury lifestyle.
The NCA utilised a range of specialist capabilities to gather intelligence, and deployed armed surveillance officers who were involved in the initial arrest of Thomas Cashman for the murder of Olivia Pratt-Korbel and the attempted murder of Joseph Nee. Our officers working in the Merseyside Organised Crime Partnership – a joint unit with Merseyside Police – and were able to provide information to support the Crown Prosecution Service charging decision and his arrest when it looked like Cashman was about to leave the UK. In April 2023 Thomas Cashman was jailed for life, to serve a minimum term of 42 years.
A suspected organised crime group were disrupted in Bucharest, Romania, after the NCA and Romanian police (as shown in image) searched two apartments believed to be operating as boiler-rooms for fraud. The fraudsters operated by pretending to help victims get their money back from a trading scam before defrauding them for a second time. After receiving data from the Romanian authorities, the NCA Complex Financial Crime Team launched an investigation into the group, who were believed to be carrying out fraud on a mass scale by using tactics familiar in both recovery and advance-fee fraud. Under the guise of the Financial Conduct Authority or other regulatory bodies, they pretended they would be able to help recover losses and asked the victims for an upfront fee. When victims paid, the money was swiftly transferred away into a crypto wallet and communication would cease. Over 700 potential UK victims were identified by law enforcement, with an additional 4,000 potential victims identified worldwide.
A British man who was Principal of an international school in Iraq was jailed after sending sexual messages to children in multiple countries and attempting to sexually exploit a 13-year-old boy using social media. He was arrested on his return to the UK where investigators established he had been in communication with 131 potential victims aged from 10-year-old in Indonesia, Iraq, Morocco, the Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Turkey amongst others. Using social media platforms the 38-year-old had told the children he was looking for a boy to sponsor. He was caught after he contacted a 13-year-old boy from Cambodia on Facebook and asked for naked photos. NCA investigators identified the offender who had arranged to pay for the boy to travel to Malaysia so they could meet.
Following an increase in the number of people buying blank-firing weapons and converting them into firearms capable of lethal force, three men who bought scores of blank-firing handguns to convert into live weapons were jailed for a total of almost 14 years. The criminals who were arrested in Birmingham by West Midlands Police on behalf of the NCA had purchased about 45 legal blank-firing pistols from gun stores in the Midlands area. Each weapon (as shown in image) costing about £100 would have been worth at least £2,500 on the criminal market once converted to fire lethal ammunition. To avoid the risk of being caught purchasing illegal firearms, criminals often turn to other ways of getting their hands on weapons.
A man who attempted to import drugs from the Netherlands was convicted and sentenced to 31 months’ imprisonment after Border Force intercepted a suspicious package destined for an address in Consett, County Durham. When examined the parcel was found to contain 1,925 units of the Class A drug LSD. This led to officers from the North East Regional Organised Crime Unit (NEROCU), working with the NCA and Durham Constabulary, executing a warrant at his home address in June. After arresting the suspect, officers found large amounts of Class A and B drugs, including cannabis infused sweets which can pose a significant risk to the public.
An Albanian organised crime group involved in smuggling migrants to the UK via Spain was dismantled, following a joint operation involving the NCA and Spanish Guardia Civil. Collaborative work between NCA officers based in both Spain and the UK successfully identified the ringleaders of the organisation. The network who were arrested in Spain facilitated mainly Albanian migrants through the northern cities of Bilbao and Santander into the UK using ferries and freight shipping routes to Liverpool, Portsmouth, and Southampton. The migrants were believed to have come directly from Albania to Spain for onward travel, but were also recruited from camps located around Spanish ports facilities. Each migrant is believed to have paid between 3,000 and 15,000 Euros to be smuggled. The high level and well organised criminal gang now face prosecution in Spain.
The NCA obtained a ruling from the High Court allowing Barclays to hand over criminal funds to the NCA in a first-of-its-kind civil recovery case. The money, amounting to over £50 million, was identified by the bank in a number of suspect accounts and transferred to secure holding accounts. The civil recovery order means that legal powers were used to recover the proceeds of crime where the account holders were not named in the court action, while identifying and recovering funds and assets linked to criminal activity. The money will be credited to the public purse and a portion used to fund a range of work including programmes designed to prevent fraud and protect potential victims.
A huge multi-national law enforcement effort resulted in 4.6 tonnes of cocaine with a UK street value in excess of £300 million being intercepted at sea from a Brazilian tug boat travelling to Europe. The operation was the result of intelligence sharing between the NCA, US Drug Enforcement Administration and Brazilian Federal Police who have been working together to identify and combat criminal networks involved in drug trafficking between Brazil, Africa and Europe. Co-ordination by the NCA working alongside the US, French and Europol authorities through the Maritime Analysis and Operations Centre (Narcotics) in Lisbon resulted in the vessel being boarded by the French Navy (as shown in image) in international waters around 400 miles off the coast of Sierra Leone. The Brazilian crew were detained and the cocaine was seized and destroyed.
The NCA worked with the Metropolitan Police Service and City of London Police in an international operation which saw the takedown of fraud website iSpoof. The site enabled criminals to appear as if they were calling from banks, tax offices and other official bodies. Confirmed losses to UK victims was £43 million, with estimated global losses in excess of £100 million. At one stage, almost 20 people every minute of the day were being contacted by scammers hiding behind false identities using the site. The operation saw the dismantling of iSpoof, and those responsible for running it were arrested. Fraudsters who paid to use its services were also targeted. The NCA provided specialist technical support, including the rebuilding of a server to identify victims and suspects. NCA officers based overseas also helped broker international support for the operation from Europol, Eurojust, Dutch Authorities and the FBI.
A seven year NCA investigation, supported by the Crown Prosecution Service, resulted in three City fund managers being convicted of a large-scale fraud which amounted to losses of £17.8 million which were meant for the people of Libya. Investigators identified how the three defendants had abused their position to defraud a £822 million Sovereign Wealth Fund belonging to the Libyan people. The fraudsters set up an investment company, based in Knightsbridge, London, to make investments on behalf of the Libya Africa Investment Portfolio. Structured through a Swiss investment banker they generated finder fees that were under declared and laundered through a series of shell companies set up in the Seychelles and the Cayman Islands by the defendants.
Five members of a Kurdish gang who ran a sophisticated and lucrative people smuggling ring were jailed for a total of almost 24 years. The NCA investigation which began in 2017 identified that the gang trafficked migrants into the UK hidden in the back of lorries through their connections with other people smugglers overseas. They operated a sophisticated and lucrative criminal enterprise, utilising complicit lorry drivers, usually from Turkey, to facilitate Kurdish and Iranian migrants to the UK where they would claim asylum. Recordings found on one of the suspect’s phone suggest that he may have been involved in the smuggling of at least 1,900 migrants from the Balkans into France or Germany during a 50-day period, charging about 1,800 Euros per migrant.
Six UK members of an organised crime group were sentenced to a combined 140 years in jail for attempting to smuggle £45 million worth of MDMA (ecstasy) into Australia. The gang in the UK and Ireland had purchased an industrial digger and cut open an arm to seal the Class A drugs inside. It was then shipped to Brisbane, where they planned for organised crime group members based in Australia to win an auction for the digger. However, Border Force officers x-rayed the machine (as shown in image), found and removed the drugs then sealed the arm installing tracking equipment before letting it move onto the auction house. As planned, the Australian gang members won the auction and the digger was sent to them. When the drugs were missing the UK organised crime group launched their own investigation, holding meetings to find out who had ‘stolen’ them. When arrested two of the criminals were in possession of EncroChat devices, which revealed their illicit planning and communications which corroborated material obtained through Operation VENETIC. Through EncroChat one of the members of the organised crime group was identified through a picture of his dog which showed a name and number on its tag.
(Please note this section is from the 2021 NSA - still to be updated) Since spring 2020, law enforcement has significantly disrupted and dismantled numerous deep-rooted organised crime groups across the UK, following international partners’ successful extraction of Encrochat data. The bespoke, encrypted global communication platform, assessed to be used exclusively for serious and organised crime, had around 9,000 UK users.
The data and subsequent enforcement activity provided a rich insight into the extensive collaboration between OCGs and their global reach. It enabled identification of individuals and groups that had been operating below the radar for a number of years.
The joint approach (NCA, Regional Organised Crime Units, Policing, Border Force, HMRC, CPS and others) has so far resulted in widespread disruption, including: arrest of 1,550 suspects, seizure of over £56 million in criminal cash, 115 firearms, 2,800 rounds of ammunition, 5.8 tonnes of Class A and B drugs, and successfully mitigated over 200 threats to people’s lives. This is the broadest and deepest UK operation into SOC to date and coordinated activity continues.