A footballer lookalike was one of 100s arrested after police developed software that can bypass the encryption of the EncroChat app used by drug dealers.
EncroChat was favoured by criminals because it was encrypted, meaning that the information shared on the network was not visible to authorities.
But in the summer of 2019, police forces across Europe raided homes and rounded up suspects in major organised crime investigations after the EncroChat programme was breached by French cops.
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On Merseyside alone, police have made nearly 200 arrests and secured 95 convictions resulting in combined prison sentences of over 1,100 years.
Among them was 40-year-old Anthony Bowden from Liverpool, who worked for a mystery drug boss known as 'Jabba the Hut', who smuggled drugs into the UK from the Netherlands.
The Liverpool ECHO reported that the criminal thought that he looked like former England player Kevin Phillips, and nicknamed himself KP.
Phillips was the Premier League top scorer in the 1999/2000 season with 30 goals for Sunderland, a tally which won him the European Golden Shoe.
Bowden operated under the handle HyenaJaw and "had close links" with the Star Wars-inspired boss.
He "was closely trusted by" Jabba and "played a leading role" in the conspiracy, organising the purchase and sale of drugs "on a commercial scale" and arranged for couriers to transport the illicit substances.
Liverpool Crown Court heard that the Jabba the Hutt gang was involved in the supply of more than 84kg of heroin and 17kg of cocaine.
Bowden was sentenced to 21 years in prison.
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Also busted were Michael and Peter Moogan, brothers who exchanged heart-warming 'happy birthday' messages on the EncroChat app.
Police saw these messages, and sadly for the brothers, also saw information that provided the authorities with 'compelling evidence' of their involvement in a drug plot.
The Moogans shared pictures of their children, vehicles, homes and relevant postcodes through EncroChat On April 1, 2020, Peter’s 38th birthday, happy birthday messages were received by their account.
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The brothers, both from Huyton, were arrested in raids that led to the recovery of just over £26,000 found in a pillow case in Michael’s bedroom and £61,000 in a business park unit linked to Peter.
They admitted conspiracy to supply both drugs and each jailed for 11 years and three months.
Earlier this year Detective Chief Superintendent Mark Kameen, head of investigations at Merseyside Police, spoke about the credibility of the evidence secured through the EncroChat investigation.
He said: "It's so impactive, it's almost go straight to jail effectively because the evidence is so powerful."
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