By Oisin Sweeney • 22 December 2020 • 21:31
AN IRISH haulage company owner has been jailed when decrypted chats revealed him to be overseeing the trafficking of drugs across Europe from his Cheshire living room.
Thomas Maher, 39, was jailed for 14 years and 8 months by a Liverpool court for his role in facilitating the movement of drugs across Europe into the UK and Ireland. Originally from the midlands of Ireland, Maher posed as an “honest haulier” while secretly acting as a “professional facilitator” of drugs across the continent according to the National Crime Agency (NCA).
He is the first major crime boss to be jailed as a result of French police decrypting Encrochat, an advanced secret messaging service used by criminal groups across Europe. Maher communicated with gangs from Britain, Ireland, Spain, Holland, and other countries to earn thousands of pounds a week trafficking cocaine, ecstasy, and heroin.
The Liverpool judge said that Maher was an “extremely important cog in the wheel of a sophisticated network”, while the NCA said the Irishman had committed his lucrative crimes “remotely sitting in his living room” in suburban Warrington.
In online chats with European criminals, he referred to cocaine as “tops”, heroin as “bottoms”, ecstasy as “polys” and the Netherlands as “the Flat”. At his Cheshire home police found evidence of his immense profits, including luxury watches and a collection of cars including a Porsche and Corvette.
The decryption of Encrochat is seen as a major disruption to Europe’s tech-savvy criminals and the sophisticated communications networks they need to ship drugs across the continent.
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Oisin is an Irish writer based in Seville, the sunny capital of Andalucia. After starting his working life as a bookseller, he moved into journalism and cut his teeth as a reporter at one of Ireland's biggest news websites. Since joining Euro Weekly News in November, he has enjoyed covering the latest stories from Seville, Spain and further afield - with special interests in crime, cybersecurity, and European politics. Anyone who can pronounce his name first try gets a free cerveza...
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