UK law enforcers are celebrating after shutting down one of the country’s largest-ever drugs laboratories, thanks to the takedown of a popular encrypted comms service in 2020.
EncroChat was used by tens of thousands of criminals globally before police managed to crack it two years ago. Since then, there have been hundreds of arrests and several convictions, many of which came in the UK.
The latest convictions were handed to Keith Davis, 62, of Chalfont St Giles, and Andrew Gurney, 51, of Quinton, Birmingham. Davis was given a sentence of five years and three months while Gurney received six years and three months at Kingston Crown Court on Friday.
They helped run a massive drugs lab near Redditch, capable of producing 400kgs of amphetamine per month – worth up to £10m at street level, according to the National Crime Agency (NCA).
Work started on converting a double garage into the laboratory in March 2020, and it began producing drugs just two months later, the NCA said. Gurney used his electrical installation and plumbing knowledge to help with this part of the project, while Davis was given chemistry training in order to operate the site.
The gang initially bought amphetamine pre-cursor chemical benzyl methyl ketone (BMK) but then switched to making it themselves in order to increase profits.
NCA officers swooped on the site in Ullenhall Lane, Henley-in-Arden, Warwickshire, in April 2021, although they were apparently forced to wait several hours before entering due to the hazardous chemicals inside.
Alleged ringleader John Keet, 41, of Chalfont St Giles, is due to be sentenced in August. A fourth man, Elliott Walker, 49, of Kidbrooke, purchased specialist equipment for the lab and was jailed for six years last December.
The convictions are the latest to come from the NCA’s Operation Venetic, which is based on information gathered from reading EncroChat messages
“Keith Davis and Andrew Gurney had key roles in running one of the largest drugs laboratories ever found in the UK. Under the direction of John Keet, they meticulously planned this criminal enterprise – even undergoing chemistry training to run the laboratory,” argued NCA branch commander Matt McMillan.
“The drugs produced will have fuelled violence, fear and exploitation in communities across the UK. Closing down this lab is a great example of multi-agency cooperation to protect the public.”