Kingpin criminals arrested as part of Britain’s biggest ever takedown of organised crime, used sophisticated ‘hides’ built into vehicles to move drugs, weapons and cash around, Scotland Yard have revealed.
The virtually impenetrable strongboxes were disguised to look like innocent components inside cars and vans used by some of the country’s most dangerous gangsters.
Dozens of vehicles have seized as part of the operation and detectives have discovered a common theme with a number featuring ‘hides’ for the transportation of illicit goods.
In one, an innocent looking work van, operated by a key cutter, had been modified to feature a hydraulic sliding door, behind which illegal items could be hidden.
In another transit van, a strongbox was disguised to look like an electrical generator.
Detectives examining the vehicles found the hides could only be opened using a complex remote control mechanism and specially made key fob.
After finally managing to break into one of the boxes, officers found a stash of valuable watches and a large amount of cocaine.
Deputy Assistant Commissioner Graham McNulty said: “Criminals go to great lengths to conceal drugs, weapons and the proceeds of their crimes. Officers regularly encounter hides in vehicles and at properties – some are basic, and some are specially constructed at significant cost to stash away evidence and illegal profits.
“Our officers instinctively look for evidence in places you wouldn’t think to look and have the knowledge and expertise to gain access to even the most sophisticated hides with complex locking mechanisms.
“These people think their wealth is untouchable, and the sole motivation for people involved in serious organised crime is money. That is why, as part of these investigations, we will look closely at their finances and use all the resources and legislation available to us to take everything they have obtained using criminal funds away from them, and bring them to justice.”
The cracking of the EncroChat platform has resulted in the biggest ever blow to serious organised crime in the UK.
An estimated 10,000 criminals in the UK used the encrypted messaging service to conduct business, believing it to be completely watertight.
But cyber specialists managed to compromise the network in early April and spent two months spying on the activities of some of the country’s most dangerous criminals.
More than 700 gangsters have been arrested with millions of pounds in cash and tonnes of illegal drugs seized.