Officer denies NCA’s ‘suppressed’ evidence on Encrochat phone investigation


National Crime Agency (NCA) officials said French law enforcement had hacked EncroChat, an encrypted phone network allegedly used by thousands of criminals across Europe. He denied that any material facts were intentionally “hidden” about what kind of discussions took place with him. March 2020.

On Friday, Wayne Johns spoke at the KC Investigatory Powers Tribunal, which is hearing a legal challenge by 10 individuals over NCA’s use of encrypted conversations from EncroChat resulting from a hack by French law enforcement. was cross-examined by Stephen Kamlish of

At the heart of the lawsuit is a targeted attack acquired by the NCA on 25 March 2020 to gain access to up to 9,000 EncroChat devices in the UK and investigate the alleged owners of those devices. Equipment Interference (TEI) warrant.

Kamlish asked Johns about his January 2020 conversation with colleague Emma Sweeting and French Police Senior Investigator (SIO) Jeremy Decoux.

French offered to explain how ‘rogue app’ worked

In one email, Decou offered to put an NCA technical expert in touch with a French technician so he could explain how “our rogue app” worked.

Kamlish asked:

johns given an OBE In June’s Queen’s Birthday honors for his work on EncroChat, he responded: It was important to know how the material could be used. “

UK law does not allow live intercepted evidence to be used in criminal trials, such as intercepted phone calls, but emails, phone texts and other messages are. A key question regarding EncroChat is whether the hacked material was obtained via live interception.

Camlisch suggested that the NCA requested information from the French and “suppressed” it after “getting an answer they didn’t want.”

Epoch Times photo
A photo of an undated handout issued by Northern Ireland Police during a raid on Operation Venetic, an investigation into EncroChat, an encrypted phone network. (Northern Ireland Police Department/PA Media)

At one point, 50,000 people (over 9,000 in the UK) used EncroChat to send and receive secure messages.

But in March 2020, French police used malware in the form of a software update to breach EncroChat’s network, hosted on servers in the town of Roubaix in northern France, and compromised tens of thousands of encrypted chats. Invaded the message.

The message was shared with the UK’s NCA, which launched Operation Venetic, claiming it had identified hundreds of criminals who were dealing drugs and guns and plotting murder.

In May of this year, Paul Fontaine, 36, from Hackney, East London, and Frankie Sinclair, 34, from Cardiff, Wales, were sentenced to life in prison for conspiring to murder based on EncroChat evidence. .

Earlier this week, retired NCA senior technology expert Luke Shrimpton told the court that the NCA purchased EncroChat devices in 2017 and 2018 and tried to reverse engineer the technology to break the encryption. rice field. They found that the French had already gone far enough with their own hacks.

NCA Officer ‘I threw the phone in the trash’

Kamlish asked Johns, “Did you know Luke Shrimpton threw his phone in the trash?”

“I knew he had a new phone,” Johns replied.

Kamlish asked if no internal investigation was conducted at the NCA to find out how Shrimpton’s phone, which may have contained important messages, was lost.

Johns replied, “He filed witness statements and was cross-examined in many trials.”

Kamlish then asked a series of questions about the legal advice Johns and his team received from the NCA legal department before contacting the Crown Attorney’s Office to obtain clearance for the TEI warrant.

Kamlish says: It’s a lie, right? “

Epoch Times photo
The National Crime Agency building in Westminster, London, October 7, 2013. (Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

Johns denied that and said he could not recall why he said the documents were subject to legal privilege.

Earlier, KC’s Abbas Lakha challenged Johns to the NCA’s claim that EncroChat was only used by criminals.

Lakha asked Johns about the NCA’s assessment that only 294 of the 7,407 EncroChat devices accessed in the UK “showed no clear link to crime.”

One phone that did not count as one of 294 calls, Lakha, contained 360 images of homes, cooking and children, plus 4,501 of a “general, domestic and non-criminal” nature. I pointed out that there was a message of 708 messages were deleted, all of which were non-criminal.

Johns said he did not have “sufficient data” to analyze and confirm that the device “does not show a clear link to criminal activity.”

“Our assessment is that the network was only used for criminal purposes,” Johns later added.

Lakha suggested that the NCA had failed to meet its “obligation of frankness” regarding disclosure.

Four days of hearings began on Tuesday, but on Thursday Judge Edith announced that he would suspend links to a cloud video platform that had allowed about 30 journalists and lawyers to view the minutes. did.

The court plans to complete the evidence-gathering portion of the hearing in December and may not issue a final ruling until early 2023.

If the NCA finds it has violated the Investigative Powers Act, it could mean that hundreds of EncroChat convictions will be reversed.

Chris Summers

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