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Home Breaking Seven men have been jailed after a National Crime Agency investigation uncovered plots to sell a terrifying haul of automatic and semi-automatic firearms and to target a man in a revenge shooting

Seven men have been jailed after a National Crime Agency investigation uncovered plots to sell a terrifying haul of automatic and semi-automatic firearms and to target a man in a revenge shooting

The men all pleaded guilty to charges which arose from Operation Venetic – the UK law enforcement response to the takedown of encrypted communications platform EncroChat. On 3 April 2020 Brandon Moore, 24, and Jordan Waring, 24, survived a shooting in Kersal, Salford. The men immediately began plotting with accomplice Umair Zaheer, 34, to hatch an ultimately unsuccessful revenge shooting. Zaheer sent them both a message telling them to get a location for the target “and we will end it”. An EncroChat message from a phone used by both Waring and Moore said: “Oh yes he’s a dead man.” Zaheer, of Somerset Road, Eccles, was known as ‘Assasin’s Creed’ on the EncroChat system, and on 14 April 2020 he sent a list of firearms, ammunition and accessories for sale to Bilal Khan, 33, who was known as ‘Legend Killer’. The firearms included an AK47 assault rifles and Skorpion and Uzi machine guns – “everything an assassin might want”, Manchester Crown Court heard. In early 2020 an international law enforcement partnership had defeated EncroChat’s encryption and enabled the NCA to see what the offenders in this case were plotting – the revenge shooting, firearms trafficking and drug deals. The NCA passed evidence of the revenge plot to Greater Manchester Police who investigated and the men were charged as a result along with drugs offences. The NCA investigated the supply of the firearms and ammunition. EncroChat messages showed that another man, Robert Brazendale, 34, worked as a trusted quartermaster and courier and was an essential cog in a machine running guns to other serious organised crime groups. After one deal was struck, on 15 April 2020 Brazendale, of Selworthy Drive, Warrington, drove his red Citroen van to deliver an AK47 assault rifle to a man in exchange for £10,500. The man cannot be named for legal reasons. The gun was later recovered by police at a property in Astley, near Wigan. Later that day Brazendale was involved in another delivery after Khan, of Mersey Road, Didsbury, brokered and forwarded sale details to an unknown EncroChat user. Riding a bicycle, Brazendale arrived at a convenience store car park in Thelwall, Warrington, and handed over an Uzi and Skorpion machine guns, a Taurus Brasil revolver and 300 rounds of ammunition to courier Hitesh Patel, 27, in exchange for £37,000. Patel agreed to drive the deadly haul to London in a Toyota Yaris. The guns were recovered by the Metropolitan Police on 30 April at an address in Brent, London, hidden in a false wall. A silencer was also found. Brazendale made a third firearms delivery that day. He later met Khan – who worked for a property management company – at the same convenience store car park and put an AK47 and large quantity of ammunition into the boot of his BMW. EncroChat evidence showed that Khan messaged Zaheer to meet him at an empty office block he held the keys for. While there, Khan and Zaheer posed with the firearm before hiding it. On 21 April NCA officers raided the property and recovered the East German AK47, two clips of ammunition and other loose ammo. Some of the bullets were soft-nosed and designed to expand on impact. The next day, Khan attended the unit and, pretending to be someone else, tried to find out what had happened. He messaged Zaheer: “Bro they found it. Makes zero sense but NCA have that AK.” He was arrested the day after at his home in Didsbury. Zaheer was arrested on 23 April. He fled from a car and tried to outrun NCA officers who caught him as he attempted to ditch his Encro phone. Brazendale was arrested but fled to Spain. He was arrested in Estepona, Malaga, in October 2020 under a European Arrest Warrant after a joint operation to trace him by NCA international liaison officers and Spanish National Police. In December Zaheer, Moore and Waring, both of no fixed address, admitted conspiring to possess firearms or ammunition with intent to endanger life in relation to the revenge shooting. Zaheer, Khan and Patel, of Garden Lane, Chester, also admitted a separate count of possession of firearms with intent to endanger life. Brazendale admitted conspiring to transfer prohibited firearms. Zaheer and Louis Coleman, 23, of Pendlecroft Avenue, Salford, both admitted conspiring to supply cocaine, with Zaheer also admitting conspiring to supply cannabis, and Coleman admitted conspiring to supply ketamine. Today, Zaheer was sentenced to 25 years in prison; Khan to 10 years and eight months; Patel to seven years and five months; Brazendale to 11 years and three months; Moore to 11 years and five months; Waring to eight years and seven months; and Coleman to six years and nine months. Neil Gardner, NCA operations manager, said: “The weapons we took off the street and out of the crime groups’ hands were some of the most lethal around with a truly devastating capability. “In seizing these weapons which are capable of firing multiple rounds per second, we have saved lives and protected the public. “The offenders thought they were safe using encrypted comms, but working with the Crown Prosecution Service and Greater Manchester Police, we built a solid case that resulted in the men admitting their involvement. “We will continue to do everything we can with partners at home and abroad to prevent organised crime groups trafficking firearms.” Detective Constable Steven Walker, of GMP Salford’s Organised Crime Unit, said: “This group of men undoubtedly posed a significant threat to the city of Salford and it’s right that they’ll now spend a majority of their adult years behind bars. “The weapons that they were in possession of and the conspiracy they were planning could’ve proved to be a lethal combination and the work we’ve been able to do with the National Crime Agency has certainly saved at least one life. “We believe some of the serious criminality we’ve seen in Salford over recent years has stemmed from the threat posed by these individuals and there’s no doubt the community can welcome the fact that these men won’t be operating on our streets for decades to come. “This was a complex case and I’d like to thank our team of detectives from our team tackling organised crime in Salford, as well as partners from the National Crime Agency who brought the encrypted material to our attention to ensure that this group can be brought to justice for the full extent of their offending.”

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