A high-level drug trafficker who played a leading role in arranging for Class A drugs – mainly cocaine and heroin – to be brought to Nottingham has been ordered to pay back £300,000 of his ill-gotten gains.
Last year 43-year-old David Martin was locked up for nine years for his role in a drugs conspiracy following a complex investigation. Two other men were also jailed for a combined eight years.
Operation Venetic was the UK law enforcement response to the takedown of an encrypted global communication service known as EncroChat.
EncroChat devices have been favoured by organised crime bosses across Europe for years as they allowed them to communicate secretly without police being able to view their messages – making it difficult to link them to criminal activity.
But following a infiltration of the service by French and Dutch law enforcement, Nottinghamshire Police was able to work alongside the National Crime Agency to expose a major drug supply into Nottinghamshire.
It led to the capture of Martin who was a highly-placed member of a criminal drug dealing organisation and who played a leading role in arranging for regular multi-kilo consignments of Class A drugs – mainly cocaine and heroin – to be brought to Nottingham from Liverpool.
During the Coronavirus lockdown, he discussed borrowing an ambulance to transport the drugs and dressing women up as nurses to bypass the restrictions.
His role involved him negotiating the supply of consignments of drugs, arranging cash payments for the drugs, recruiting and managing couriers and overseeing the logistics.
Two of the couriers he recruited, Jamie Wilkinson, 45, and Lee Bennett, 31, were also taken down by police as part of the investigation.
Wilkinson, formerly of Ash Crescent in Nuthall, was subsequently jailed for four-and-a-half years.
Bennett, formerly of Kenbrook Road in Hucknall, was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison.
Martin sent them to Liverpool to collect the drugs and make payments on his behalf. On one single journey, 5kg of cocaine and 2kg of heroin to the value of £300,000 was brought into Nottinghamshire.
The investigation which brought them down involved analysing communications over the EncroChat system between Martin and others, using automatic number plate recognition cameras to establish journeys were taken and marry that up with the locations of devices at the time.
The enquiry found Martin operated through EncroChat using a “handle” nickname of Steelwhale to arrange the purchase of controlled drugs between 31 March and 8 June 2020.
EncroChat users were warned in June 2020 that the system had been compromised and were advised to dispose of their phones immediately.
Martin instructed Bennett to pick up a replacement upgraded device on 18 June 2020 and he was arrested upon his return. The device, along with the passcode, were recovered in Bennett’s vehicle and a police dog used to search the vehicle gave a positive indication that drugs had been in the car.
Searches of their home address and Martin’s Ultimate Gym in Hucknall were later executed, resulting in Martin’s arrest.
The men – who were each described as “links in a chain of wholesale supply of drugs” – accepted responsibility for their roles organising the logistical movement of drugs on a wholesale scale when they each entered a guilty plea to conspiring to supply Class A drugs – cocaine and heroin.
On Wednesday (9 February), following a Proceeds of Crime Act application hearing at Nottingham Crown Court, Martin, formerly of Third Avenue, Rainworth, was ordered to repay £300,000 – an agreed sum which he benefitted from his criminal activity.
Detective Sergeant Emma Pollard, of Nottinghamshire Police, led the investigation. She said: “I’m delighted with this successful confiscation order and that such a significant sum has been taken out of criminal hands.
“The amount confiscated is considerable and will stay with Martin for the rest of his life until it is paid off.
“We are really proud to be one of the first forces in the country to bring a successful prosecution of criminals using EncroChat to sentencing.
“It was a hugely complex investigation and prosecution involving Nottinghamshire Police, the National Crime Agency and the Crown Prosecution Service.
“I’d like to pay tribute to the detectives and prosecutors who worked tirelessly on the case. Collectively thousands of hours were spent forensically piecing together all the evidence which resulted in disrupting a UK drugs supply chain into Nottinghamshire, ensuring those responsible receive the sentences they so deserve.
“We’ll continue our work to combat drug dealing and we will also proactively look at ill-gotten gains and look to seize assets under the Proceeds of Crime Act when we can to ensure that offenders aren’t benefitting from their criminal activity.
“This case is an example of how Nottinghamshire Police, in partnership with the National Crime Agency, will relentlessly target drugs traffickers who bring misery and harm to our communities.
“I’d like to reassure the people of Nottinghamshire that the force will continue its fight against those involved in serious organised crime to make our communities safer.”
A portion of the funds raised from confiscation is returned to law enforcement and can be reinvested in tackling crime or community initiatives helping to reduce crime and bring stronger cohesion.
Anyone who has information about drug dealing in their area is urged to please have the confidence to call Nottinghamshire Police on 101 or contact the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
Young people can also pass on information about crime completely anonymously, using a secure online form, through the youth service Fearless – which is a part of Crimestoppers.
The Fearless website offers young people non-judgemental advice so they can make informed decisions about reporting crime. The service also engages with and educates young people about the consequences of their choices around crime.