MEMBERS of an organised crime group used EncroChat communication platform to facilitate the sourcing and supply of more than 50kgs of class A drugs in South Wales.

Two men and a woman from Cardiff have been found guilty of drug offences following a trial at Cardiff Crown Court that ended on Tuesday, April 30. 

A further man from Barry pleaded guilty in May 2023.

Between March 1 and May 27, 2020, Kyle Johnson, Lee Bridgeman, Samira Kearle and Ali Ahmed moved more than 50 kilograms of cocaine across South Wales. 

EncroChat messages showed that Johnson, as the head of the OCG, arranged and oversaw the transport of cash from Cardiff to West London as payment for the cocaine that had been supplied to the group. 

Bridgeman acted as a courier for both drugs and cash, and supplied cocaine locally.

Kearle held and couriered cash for the group and Ahmed acted as a courier for both cash and drugs.

South Wales Argus: Cash seizedCash seized (Image: Tarian)

Kyle Johnson, 42, from Butetown, Cardiff, denied any involvement in the offence and stated that the EncroChat device must have been in the possession of his business partner at the time. He was found guilty of conspiracy to supply class A controlled drugs.

Ali Ahmed, 48, from Grangetown, Cardiff, fled from the United Kingdom in September 2022 and the trial was heard in his absence. He was found guilty of conspiracy to supply class A controlled drugs.

Samira Kearle, 39, also from Grangetown, Cardiff, denied any involvement and stated that she had never been in possession of an EncroChat enabled device. She was found guilty of conspiracy to supply class A controlled drugs.

Lee Bridgeman, 37, from Barry, Vale of Glamorgan, pleaded guilty in May 2023 to conspiracy to supply class A controlled drugs.

South Wales Argus: The gang shifted over 50kgs of cocaine across South WalesThe gang shifted over 50kgs of cocaine across South Wales (Image: Tarian)

South Wales Argus: Huge quantity of drugs were recoveredHuge quantity of drugs were recovered (Image: Tarian)

The investigation, known as Operation Aquila, was conducted by Tarian, the Regional Organised Crime Unit for southern Wales.

Detective Inspector Andrew Gibbins, of Tarian, said: “This criminal gang have peddled misery in the local community for their own financial benefit.

“Justice has caught up with them. This has been a complex investigation; the result of dedicated police officers and staff working tirelessly to achieve a positive outcome.

“EncroChat was one of the world’s largest encrypted communications services in which users were given a modified mobile device. This came preloaded with private messaging apps that could be used to contact other EncroChat users. The security features made these devices popular with organised crime gangs, but the network was infiltrated by law enforcement in 2019, allowing us to view messages and gather vital evidence. As is the instance in this case.”

Sentencing has been set for later this year.