Machine guns seized by police after encrypted phone network cracked

Four machine guns have been seized in London and Manchester during a police investigation launched after an encrypted global phone network was cracked.

Two AK47 assault rifles along with an Uzi and a Skorpion submachine gun were recovered and three men have been charged.

The National Crime Agency (NCA) launched its investigation earlier this year as part of Operation Venetic, the UK response to the takedown of the encrypted global Encrochat network.

The £3,000 mobile phones were believed to be uncrackable, but were penetrated earlier this year by law enforcement in Europe and became the UK’s biggest ever single crime bust with a series of operations and raids on organised crime gangs.

Guns seized
Guns seized

In April, under Operation Venetic, officers seized the AK47 assault rifle hidden in a commercial building in Warrington, Cheshire.

The same month in London officers seized the Uzi and Skorpion sub machine guns, 300 rounds of ammunition, £180,000 cash and a kilogram of cocaine from a location in London.

In June a second AK47 was seized in Manchester.

On Tuesday three men were arrested and charged with conspiracy to possess firearms and ammunition with intent to endanger life or to enable another person to endanger life.

Guns seized
Guns seized

They are: Bilal Khan, 32, of Mersey Road, Didsbury, Manchester; Umair Zaheer, 33, of Somerset Road, Eccles, Manchester; and Hitesh Patel, 26, of Garden Lane, Chester, Cheshire.

Robert Brazendale, 33, was arrested by the Spanish National Police in Estepona on the Costa del Sol, on a European Arrest Warrant, on suspicion of the same offence.

Brazendale, of Warrington, Cheshire, has been remanded to custody in Spain and faces extradition proceedings.

Neil Gardner, NCA operations manager, said: “The arrests by the NCA and Spanish National Police are the latest in a long line made since Operation Venetic was announced in July this year.

“As part of this investigation the NCA and our policing partners have removed some of the most deadly firearms that exist.

“We will continue to target offenders who bring firearms into our communities.”