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National Crime Agency Running More Than 800 Operations as It Reaches 10th Anniversary

The National Crime Agency marks its 10th anniversary on Saturday 7 October, and has revealed it is running more than 800 operations into serious and  organised crime groups impacting the United Kingdom.

The huge number illustrates the scale of the fight the NCA is leading to protect the public from significant harms.

The Agency targets the most dangerous organised crime groups (OCGs) operating in or against the UK.

Some of its current investigations are against:

  • A ransomware group responsible for hundreds of victims in the UK, and thousands around the world, who have lost hundreds of millions of pounds in ransom payments and disruption costs.
  • A group of the highest harm predatory criminals who hide on the dark web and instruct others how to commit the worst kinds of sexual offences against children in the UK.
  • An organised crime group based in Europe who are importing illegally acquired powerful automatic weapons into the UK for use by crime groups across the country.
  • A network of UK based money-launderers working together to clean millions of pounds via cash and crypto on behalf of multiple UK based crime groups.

Protection of the public is at the heart of the NCA’s mission and since it was launched in 2013 its work has resulted in:

  • More than 23,000 disruptions – actions that have reduced or removed a crime threat
  • over 12,500 arrests
  • more than 4,900 convictions
  • jail terms totalling over 21,100 years
  • seizures of over 2,000 tonnes of cocaine, heroin and cannabis
  • the seizure of more than 3,100 firearms

The harm from serious and organised crime is not always visible. Its reach is limitless and pernicious. It causes more harm, to more people, more often than any other national security threat.

It ruins lives every single day. It exploits the vulnerable. And it destroys communities across the UK, with families ruined by drugs – by addiction and the violence and crime it drives. Young lives cut short by overdoses and gun crime. Childhoods scarred by sexual abuse and constant re-victimisation as sickening videos and images are shared by offenders online. People’s life-savings stolen through online fraud or cyber attacks.

In the last 10 years, the Agency has been at the forefront of the country’s response to SOC threats which have been increasingly enabled by technological advancements.

In 2020 the NCA led the UK response to the takedown of encrypted communications platform EncroChat, exclusively used by criminals, under Operation Venetic.

So far under Venetic, across UK law enforcement, 3,147 suspects have been arrested, 1,240 offenders convicted, more than nine tonnes of cocaine and heroin seized, and 173 firearms seized. Offenders have been jailed for more than 7,930 years.

Over the last decade the Agency has led the way with partners to protect children from paedophiles. We and policing currently safeguard around 1,200 children a month and arrest more than 800 suspects.

In 2016, paedophile Richard Huckle, 29, admitted 71 offences and was jailed for 25 years after an NCA investigation. Huckle photographed himself abusing children, toddlers and a baby. He shared the images online.

Two years later Birmingham University professor Matthew Falder, also 29, was jailed for 25 years after a landmark NCA investigation.

He committed a catalogue of horrific crimes by blackmailing victims online into sending him depraved abuse images of themselves and others. Three victims tried to kill themselves such was their misery. Falder, a Cambridge University graduate, had evaded international law enforcement for several years. He was identified and caught by the NCA after a relentless, four-year investigation.

In 2019 a Russian national who ran the world’s most harmful cyber-crime group responsible for losses of hundreds of millions of pounds in the UK alone, was indicted in the United States following unprecedented collaboration between the NCA and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Last year the Agency arrested members of a major criminal network suspected of involvement in the smuggling of up to 10,000 people into the UK, with linked arrests across Europe.

This year, the NCA was involved in an international operation to take down one of the biggest online marketplaces selling stolen credentials to criminals worldwide. The Agency identified hundreds of UK-based users of the Genesis Market and co-ordinated arrests.

In the last decade the Agency has done an enormous amount of work against commodity-based crimes, involving drugs and firearms. This year, the NCA announced it had seized more than 700 firearms in the UK in a project with Spanish law enforcement, Border Force and police. And the Agency has also been responsible for the seizure of some mammoth consignments of Class A drugs.

One example was Operation Screenplay – the seizure of 3.2 tonnes of cocaine worth £512m in 2015 from a tug boat intercepted 100 miles off the Aberdeen coast. At the time it was the UK’s biggest ever seizure. Two men were jailed for 42 years.

The functions of the NCA are twofold.

Firstly, to reduce crime, through our own investigations and when appropriate, to coordinate, enable and lead the work of our law enforcement partners. Secondly, to gather, analyse and disseminate intelligence.

We do this with our world-leading intelligence capabilities and highly skilled and specialist officers who bring their expertise and passion to work every day to make the UK safer, whether that is on our streets or online.

The NCA also provides support to police forces across the country, as it hosts a vast array of specialist national and international capabilities which are used for the benefit of all UK law enforcement.

For example, last year the NCA’s Major Crime Investigative Support officers worked on 11,163 policing investigations and directly supported vulnerable victims and witnesses on more than 8,400 occasions.

Another NCA specialist team is the AKEU – the Anti-Kidnap and Extortion Unit.

The team provides expert support in the UK and internationally, working covertly to secure the safe release of hostages and to combat blackmail and extortion. Since 2013 the team has received in excess of 5,500 kidnap reports and more than 6,000 blackmail reports.

Overseas, the NCA has also safeguarded more than 300 hostages in kidnaps involving British Nationals.  

The harm to the public from serious and organised crime is not always visible.

Much of crime is online, taking place behind closed doors, on the dark web or through encrypted apps. And the threat continues to grow and evolve. Worryingly, in some areas it is rising. 

Director General Graeme Biggar said: “Our achievements over the last 10 years are immense.

“We are working in an increasingly volatile world. OCGs are capitalising on new online opportunities, global conflict and cost of living pressures to evade law enforcement and inflict harm.

“Organised crime looked different 10 years ago and will look different 10 years from now. So to address the rapidly changing threat and stay on the front foot we are focusing on several things.

“We are targeting top-tier criminals by harnessing intel to pinpoint the most harmful crime groups and target the links in the criminal chain that are hardest to replace.

“We’re focusing more on overseas to address the threat to the UK, wherever it originates from, and taking the fight online to combat crime business models that now rely on technology.

“Over our next decade the NCA will only get better and stronger. Every day we learn more about those who harm us, we recruit excellent officers who dedicate their lives to keeping people safe and we improve our technological and intelligence capabilities.

“The threat of serious and organised crime remains. I am proud to lead the Agency and we will do everything possible to protect the public.”

Source: NCA