15/04/2024

NI Man Jailed For Use Of Criminal Encrypted Communication Channel

A 44-year-old man has been sentenced to a total of 12 years for offences linked to EncroChat – an encrypted communication channel used by criminals.

Michael O'Loughlin was arrested in 2020 following the search of a property as part of Operation Venetic, a UK wide operation by the National Crime Agency (NCA) designed to "dismantle EncroChat".

At L'Derry Crown Court O'Loughlin was sentenced to 12 years – half to be served in custody and half on licence.

Welcoming the sentencing, Detective Inspector McCamley from the Police Service of NI's Organised Crime Branch said: "EncroChat was an encrypted communication channel used by organised crime groups to plan illegal activity, such as drug importation and the movement of cash.

"Michael O'Loughlin's arrest followed the search of a property in Warrenpoint in 2020. Here, various items were seized, including encrypted mobile phones and other encrypted devices, SIM cards, drugs and cash.
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"The defendant was charged with, and pleaded guilty to, over 40 offences, including two counts of conspiracy to commit murder, encouraging or assisting murder, conspiracy to possess a firearm and conspiracy to inflict grievous bodily harm. The list also includes criminal property offences, such as conspiracy to transfer criminal property and possession of criminal property, which amount to over £250,000. Drug offences relate to Class A, B and C drugs and include, for example, conspiracy to import Class A controlled drugs and being concerned in the supply of a Class A controlled drug, namely cocaine."

Detective Inspector McCamley continued: "Throughout the case we worked closely with partners, including prosecutors from the Public Prosecution Service and the NCA. The latter collaborated with Europol and French authorities to gather evidence, which was in turn shared with, and used to assist, our Police Service investigation.

"It's thanks to such collaborative efforts, backed up the digital forensic evidence recovered by detectives from the Police Service's Cyber Crime Centre, that we are able to bring O'Loughlin before Court.

"This is an example of our ongoing commitment to bring those involved in criminal activity to justice. Working alongside our partner agencies, we will continue to disrupt the movements and activities of organised crime groups, who bring nothing but harm to the most vulnerable within our communities."

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