Indian-origin man charged with firearms offence in UK

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LONDON: An Indian-origin man has been charged with conspiracy to possess firearms and ammunition with intent to endanger life or to enable another person to endanger life as part of a long-running operation led by the UK‘s National Crime Agency (NCA).
Hitesh Patel, 26, from Cheshire in north-west England, appeared at Manchester Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday charged with the offences along with two others, Bilal Khan, 32, and Umair Zaheer, 33.
A fourth UK national, Robert Brazendale, 33, was arrested in Spain on a European Arrest Warrant as part of the NCA’s investigation into the large-scale supply and possession of firearms.
Brazendale, also from Cheshire, has been remanded to custody in Spain and faces extradition proceedings to the UK.
“The arrests by the NCA and Spanish National Police are the latest in a long line made since Operation Venetic was announced in July this year.
“As part of this investigation, the NCA and our policing partners have removed some of the most-deadly firearms that exist. We will continue to target offenders who bring firearms into our communities,” said Neil Gardner, NCA operations manager.
The NCA launched its investigation earlier this year as part of Operation Venetic – the UK law enforcement response to the takedown of encrypted global communications service EncroChat.
In April, under Operation Venetic, officers seized an AK47 assault rifle hidden in a commercial building in Warrington, Cheshire.
That month, officers also seized an Uzi and Skorpion sub machine guns, 300 rounds of ammo, 180,000 pounds in cash and a kilogramme of cocaine from a location in London.
In June, officers seized a second AK47 from Manchester.
“The NCA’s relentless targeting of these gangs has helped to keep us all safe. I congratulate them and law enforcement partners on this significant achievement,” UK Home Secretary Priti Patel said in July, when the scale of the operation was first revealed.
EncroChat had 60,000 users worldwide, with around 10,000 in the UK, and its sole use was to coordinate and plan the distribution of illicit commodities, money laundering and plotting to kill rival criminals.
Since 2016, the NCA said it has been working with international law enforcement agencies to target EncroChat and other encrypted criminal communication platforms by sharing technical expertise and intelligence.
EncroChat servers were shut down as a result of the Europe-wide operation.
The arrests made in connection with Operation Venetic have been dubbed as being part of “high-harm” organised crime networks.



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