EncroChat defendant and family describe pressure on Buckle

The Investigative Powers Court (IPT) will rule later this month on whether the warrant to intercept data on EncroChat’s encrypted telephone network was lawfully obtained by the National Crime Agency’s (NCA) Operation Venetic. I plan to drop it. 500 in the UK.

Another 1,000 people are awaiting trial based on EncroChat messages, and the Epoch Times spoke to five people who lost their lives in Operation Venetic.

Hatice Osman is pregnant with her boyfriend Mehmet Yildirim’s child.

Yildirim was arrested in north London in the spring of 2022 and charged with conspiracy to supply approximately 20 kilos of class A drugs.

He has not been found in possession of drugs or money, and police have not disclosed any other evidence against him, but attribute five EncroChat handles to him.

Osman told The Epoch Times: there is nothing. The only thing the police have is cell site evidence and his EncroChat messages. “

Yildirim denied having an EncroChat device and Osman said it was not her boyfriend who sent and received the drug-related messages.

She said the real culprit may have been one of several workers doing construction work on the Ottoman site in the spring and summer of 2020.

Epoch Times photo
Prime Minister Rishi Snak speaks with two unidentified National Crime Agency officials during a visit to the National Crime Agency’s London headquarters on December 13, 2022. (PA)

Osman said one of the workers was a Turkish national who had returned to Turkey, but the NCA had no interest in him and was convinced that Yildirim was guilty.

She said images of honey jars that were on Osman’s property were found on EncroChat’s phone, but that doesn’t prove he was the one who used the device, she said. .

“They’re trying to break him down to make him plead guilty.”

Mr Osman said: They want to tear him down, they want him to plead guilty. He fears he will have 20 years if he pleads not guilty and is convicted. But he is innocent. “

Most EncroChat cases would be fatally undermined if the court upheld the appeal and quashed the warrant, but only if the defendants consistently maintained their innocence. cannot appeal.

Osman said: I am worried about his mental state. “

She said her boyfriend suffered a brain injury a few years ago that left him vulnerable, but said his only sin was being “too trusting” and that “he thought he was being used.” He keeps repeating to me, ‘They’re not my friends’.”

Mr Osman said Mr Yildirim’s family was unimpressed with the initial legal advice they received and now has hired a leading barrister to advise them on how to defend themselves.

Osman said: He doesn’t even have points on his driver’s license. In fact, he has given police evidence in the past. And he hates drugs. When we first met I was smoking weed but within two weeks he had me quit. “

Epoch Times photo
An undated image of an EncroChat handset (L) recovered during a police raid in Northern Ireland (R) in July 2020. (Police Service of Northern Ireland)

Hakan, Yildirim’s brother, said the evidence linking his brother to the EncroChat device was highly contextual and did not stand up to scrutiny.

He told The Epoch Times: It’s absolutely crazy. No drugs or money were found and his brother was not living like a drug dealer. If he’s this guy, where’s his money? He’s a vulnerable man with a brain injury. “

Hakan said his brother had asked him to investigate what would be the outcome if he pleaded guilty, despite his innocence.

“He wonders if it is worth pleading not guilty. Twenty years is a life-changing time of service. He will miss his children growing up. It’s a calculation he’s making out of the pressure that is putting on him,” Hakan said.

This is a common reserve in remand awaiting trial on EncroChat’s claim.

Judges across the country handling EncroChat cases have handed down sentences of up to 25 years in prison for those found guilty of supplying Class A drugs.

Based on EncroChat’s evidence, Billy Caldwell has been remanded to one of Scotland’s toughest prisons and is awaiting trial on drug supply charges.

His brother Jimmy Caldwell said, “He was charged with being part of a serious organized crime group. The group had a seizure, but Billy had no encrophones, drugs or money. They attributed the EncroChat handle to him, and the evidence against him is just three minutes of conversation.”

Jimmy Caldwell said, “One of them says happy birthday, but it’s three days before his actual birthday.”

Epoch Times photo
An undated image of Danny Brown (R) and his dog Bob (L). This image was found on his EncroChat device used by someone with the handle Throwthedice. Brown said on his court in Kingston, London in December 2022 that he was jailed for 26 years for a drug offense. (National Crime Agency)

Caldwell claims he was completely innocent of the crimes he was charged with, and his brother said there was no drug seizure or surveillance linking him to witnesses who identified him as a gang member. rice field.

He has been remanded in prison for the better part of 18 months and no trial date has yet been set.

The detention time limit has been extended three times due to the COVID-19 pandemic and barrister strike.

Jimmy Caldwell said: In Scotland, unlike in England, prosecutors do not have to disclose everything until trial. “

“In my brother’s case, he faces eight charges, but they offered to drop seven charges. They just want him to plead guilty,” he said. .

“There’s a lot of pressure on people to buckle up.”

Jimmy Caldwell said there are many, like his brother, whose EncroChat chat logs are the only evidence.

he said: They are innocent unless forced to plead guilty. “

Last month, the IPT filed a three-day appeal against the Investigative Authority Commissioner’s grant of a thematic targeted device interference warrant. Brian Levesoninformation obtained by NCA on 25 March 2020 was used to access up to 9,000 EncroChat devices in the UK and investigate their owners.

Attorneys for the 10 individuals targeted said the NCA knew the French Gendarmerie’s hack of EncroChat, known as Operation Emma, ​​was a live interception. Evidence from encrypted devices used in UK courts.

Epoch Times photo
An undated image of Sir Brian Leveson, UK Investigative Powers Commissioner and retired judge who approved the EncroChat warrant. (PA)

Jimmy Caldwell said he believed the warrant would eventually be revoked, stating: If so, it would be the end of the NCA. I think there is a reach round. Maybe they will try to blame the French. Or it may end up in the UK Supreme Court. “

However, he said those still facing trial would be released, but those who pleaded guilty would have no means of appealing.

Yorkshire native Frankie King is out on bail pending a retrial after the jury was unable to reach a verdict in the first trial. Several of his co-defendants have been jailed for up to 20 years for conspiracy to supply Class A drugs.

King, who was arrested in June 2020, told the Epoch Times: i had never seen them before. They didn’t find me his Encro phone but told me I had. They made “virtual agreements” with others. My barrister says I was collateral to get someone else.

He added: it’s not my phone I have a picture on that phone linked to me, so they attributed it to me. “

“It’s an old story. No encrophones. No money. No drugs. Nothing. It’s a chat-only indictment against me,” he added.

“It’s like living in a banana republic”

“Those who commit crimes should be punished, but it is morally wrong to break the law for the sake of upholding the law. This is what the National Crime Agency has done. It’s like being there.”

John Bennett, from the north of England, is also awaiting the conclusion of legal proceedings in his case.

He has been accused of being part of a drug-dealing gang in the north of England, but he told The Epoch Times: They found £2,000 at my house, but I worked for it.

Bennett said he was mistakenly identified as the owner of the EncroChat handle, which was part of a drug conspiracy.

A spokesman for the National Crime Agency said it had no comment on Operation Benetic or the IPT hearings.

However, in July 2020, NCA Chief of Investigations, Nicky Holland, said: I have evidence to prosecute them. “

“This is the UK’s broadest and deepest operation to date against serious organized crime,” said Holland, who was suspended for alleged misconduct in March 2022.

Individual names have been changed to protect their identities and prevent them from violating the UK Contempt of Court Act.

Chris Summers

Chris Summers is a UK-based journalist with a wide range of national coverage, with a particular interest in crime, police and law.