Operation Venetic: Crime bosses jailed

Two crime bosses who conspired to buy and supply Class A drugs and guns on the encrypted communications platform EncroChat have been jailed.

Raj Singh, 45, and Waqas Iqbal, 41, plotted multi-kilo consignments of cocaine and heroin between March and May 2020.

Iqbal & Singh

National Crime Agency officers proved Singh, of Charlock Way, Guildford, Surrey, and Iqbal, of Hurst Drive, Waltham Cross, Hertfordshire, ran the organised crime group and regularly worked together to buy and sell Class A drugs and firearms. They also planned to launder money and send ketamine to Canada.

Offenders were not known by their real names on EncroChat but by ‘handles’. Singh was called Salmonagent and Iqbal was Ghostshooter.

In one EncroChat exchange, Iqbal told a criminal contact that his OCG had its name on 150 kilos of cocaine and 100 kilos of heroin.

The crucial phone evidence also showed the pair conspiring on firearms details.

At the end of March 2020 Iqbal supplied a contact with ammunition for a 7.65 Browning at a meeting on Acacia Road, in London E17.

A week later Singh and Iqbal discussed a firearm that Iqbal had hidden in a wall.

Over the next few days between 8 and 10 April the men discussed buying another firearm from a contact on EncroChat for £8,000.

On 24 April Iqbal told a criminal contact that he had bought a Walther Creed semi-automatic handgun with 50 bullets for £6,000.

A conversation four weeks later between Iqbal and Singh revealed the bullets weren’t delivered on that deal, but they had also agreed to buy a Skorpion machine pistol for £6,000.

The National Crime Agency led Operation Venetic – the UK response to the takedown of EncroChat in 2020.

Dean Wallbank, NCA operations manager, said: “Though Iqbal and Singh operated within the London area they had criminal connections in multiple countries within mainland Europe and further afield.

“Like other high end dealers, Iqbal and Singh are toxic and responsible for causing very serious levels of harm to society.

“They didn’t care what bloodshed the guns and drugs led to, just as long as they made money.

“Protecting the public from the threats of Class A drugs and firearms is a priority for the NCA.”

The messages between Singh and Iqbal revealed how significant their offending was.

The men had not only been involved in many multiple kilo deals to buy and supply Class A drugs, the decrypted messages revealed that in April 2020 Iqbal was in the process of repaying £385,000 for drugs he had taken on credit.

Decrypted messages between April and May 2020 also showed the OCG in conversations about laundering 151,500 Euros from the UK to the Netherlands.

Singh also plotted to send ketamine to Canada.

Iqbal admitted conspiracy to import Class A drugs (10kgs cocaine), conspiracy to transfer a prohibited weapon and money laundering.

Singh admitted conspiracy to supply class A (cocaine), conspiracy to supply class B (ketamine) and money laundering. He also admitted assault occasioning actual bodily harm upon police on a separate matter.

In February this year Singh – also known as Rajinder Singh Bassi – was sentenced to eight years and 10 months at Guildford Crown Court.

The sentence also included 16 months for assault occasioning actual bodily harm upon a female police officer. Singh was involved in a pub fight in which he kicked the police officer’s leg as she tried to restrain him. The officer required significant rehabilitation upon her knee and cannot return to front line policing due to the injuries.

Today, at the same court, Iqbal was sentenced to 12 years in prison.

28 April 2023