Two criminals plotted together on an encrypted communications platform over a sub machine gun and drugs deals.
Waheed Zaman, 43, and Aweis Bashir, 27, used EncroChat to arrange deals for a Czech-manufactured Skorpion machine pistol and Class A drugs.
The firearm was not recovered and both offenders ditched their Encro phones before being arrested - but a wealth of evidence proved they were the men behind their anonymising ‘handles’ on EncroChat.
Both men have now been jailed.
What did they do?
The National Crime Agency said when he was arrested in June 2020, Zaman told officers: “I’ve got nothing to worry about as I don’t have an Encro phone.”
Zaman, of Deakin Avenue, Brownhills, Walsall, used the handle ‘Naturalmist’ to communicate with other offenders.
Bashir, of Parrs Wood Road, Ladybarn, south Manchester, communicated under the handle Blackskull but he later changed the handle to "LouisVuitton.com".
On 3 April 2020 he contacted Zaman using the latter handle, but his accomplice didn’t recognise him and asked who it was.
Bashir replied: “Who you got the scorp off bro.” Zaman then asked him: “any joy with sweets” meaning bullets.
The next day they again talked about obtaining bullets and Zaman also asked for ammunition for a Luger pistol.
The pair had more conversations about ammunition, with Zaman asking for bullets for a Glock and a ’44 spinner’ believed to be a revolver.
Bashir also had conversations with other Encrochat users about the supply of other firearms and selling Class A drugs.
In June 2020, Zaman asked Bashir again for bullets – this time for 200 which Bashir said he could not obtain.
Zaman, who was jailed for 10 years in 2011 for robbery, also referred to himself as ‘Zam’ in conversations on EncroChat.
He joked about being 10 years younger than he really was because of having been away in prison.
Zaman exchanged Encro messages with other offenders about sourcing Class A drugs and paying off drugs debts.
A keen jet skier, Zaman kept two jetskis near Poole harbour in Dorset and messaged one contact about possibly training “kids to ride out and collect” drugs dropped in the Channel.
EncroChat was taken down in 2020 in an international law enforcement operation and the NCA launched Operation Venetic – the UK’s response to the takedown.
Bashir was arrested on 20 April 2021 and officers discovered £2,270 in the pocket of his coat.
EncroChat messages Bashir had sent between 29 March 2020 and 12 June 2020 were recovered.
In that time he was involved in the supply of firearms and ammunition, as well as the importation and distribution of Class A and B drugs.
What happened in court?
He initially denied the charges and went to trial at Loughborough Crown Court but on the eve of the judge summing up, Bashir changed his pleas and admitted: conspiring to supply cocaine and cannabis; transferring a prohibited weapon – Skorpion machine pistol; possessing and acquiring ammunition – Skorpion machine pistol; assisting the sale and transfer of a Tokarev pistol; assisting the sale and transfer of a Beretta pistol.
After the four-week trial, the jury convicted Zaman after an hour and forty-five minutes’ deliberations.
He was convicted of: three counts of supplying Class A drugs; attempting to possess or acquire a Skorpion sub machinegun; attempting to possess or acquire prohibited ammunition.
Zaman was jailed to a total of 22 years in jail and Bashir to a total of 16.
'They didn't care about the consequences'
Kay Mellor, NCA Regional Head of Investigations, said: “These are two men who didn’t care about ruining people’s lives with the supply of drugs and firearms.
“They didn’t care about the consequences for communities or the fallout for entirely innocent victims. They only cared about themselves and how much money they could make.
“The NCA works with partners at home and abroad to fight the threats of Class A drugs and firearms.
“Protecting the public from these dangers is a top priority for the agency.”