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nabbed Bungling Ulster mobsters busted after sharing videos on encrypted messaging app

Sinister texts were intercepted and decoded by National Crime Agency (NCA) investigators earlier this year

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Encrochat

Encrochat

Eleven firearms discovered in Jerretspass. Picture: Pacemaker

Eleven firearms discovered in Jerretspass. Picture: Pacemaker

Colin Duffy. Photo: PA Wire

Colin Duffy. Photo: PA Wire

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Encrochat

One of Ulster's biggest organised crime gangs has been busted by elite cops after bungling gangsters posted videos of themselves kissing bullets on a compromised secret messaging app.

The Sunday World can reveal that members of 'The Firm' - a narco outfit that has flooded Northern Ireland with drugs for years - also boasted about kill bids, joked about pipebombing rivals' homes and even filmed themselves returning from Spain on a Belfast-bound plane.

Sources say the sinister texts - made on the cop-cracked EncroChat system - were intercepted and decoded by National Crime Agency (NCA) investigators earlier this year.            

It's understood the gang, whose members include a former LVF man and one-time high-ranking dissident republican, are number one suspects in last month's huge gun haul in Co Down.

In what was described as the "most significant find in a decade", 11 firearms including machine- guns, hand pistols and assault rifles were uncovered by NCA investigators buried underground the rural Jerrettspass.

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Eleven firearms discovered in Jerretspass. Picture: Pacemaker

Eleven firearms discovered in Jerretspass. Picture: Pacemaker

Eleven firearms discovered in Jerretspass. Picture: Pacemaker

 

Some of those guns are believed to have emanated from loyalist stashes from the Troubles, however the NCA said its investigations around the cache are not paramilitary related.

Today we can reveal how The Firm has grown from a lowly petty crime gang to running one of the biggest drug operations in the North.

They have murdered, maimed and are working hand-in-hand with Europe-wide cartels to put poison on the streets of Ulster to line their pockets.

Sources claim a senior gang member is a one-time UVF youth who it is alleged has connections to former LVF crime lord Drew King.            

The Firm's leadership recently formed an unlikely allegiance with a man with strong dissident republican connections to the Lurgan area.

Despite once being deadly enemies, the gangsters, who all come from the Mid-Ulster and Armagh areas, are now running a "cross-community" criminal empire which was making them hundreds of thousands a month.

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"They were cleaning up," a well-placed source told the Sunday World. "These guys were well tuned in and connected, not only to other crime gangs on the island but across the continent.

"They were pulling in some amount of gear a month and it was going to all parts of the country. They weren't afraid of muscling in on other patches either - they've killed to do it.

"They also didn't give two f**** about paramilitaries - they even shot up Colly Duffy's home a couple of years ago.

"The dough they were making was huge and with the money they had coming in they literally had access to anything and felt they could do whatever they wanted.

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Colin Duffy. Photo: PA Wire

Colin Duffy. Photo: PA Wire

Colin Duffy. Photo: PA Wire

 

"They did much of their business over EncroChat, which they'd boasted was impenetrable.

"The mistake they made was posting videos of themselves, full faces shown. Silly things like kissing bullets and joking whose head it was going in, usually other rivals'.

"They'd discuss pipe-bombing houses, putting the fear in people they'd fallen out with.

"The biggest mistake they made was filming themselves on a trip to Spain, I think it was both business and pleasure. On the way back to Belfast, they videoed themselves carrying on in the plane.

"It was posted at a specific date and time and it wasn't too hard for the cops who had cracked into the messages to match it up with passenger records for that day.            

"Would they have been silly enough to discuss the location of weapons? Probably. It would certainly be a big coincidence that this app was cracked and then police find 11 guns."

The Encrochat crackdown - which saw investigators decode the encrypted messaging service - has led to more than 800 arrests across the continent, including that of major crime figures.

The secret messaging purge was initiated and led by French and Dutch police, and also involved Europol, the EU agency for law enforcement co-operation.

Sources say The Firm has around 70 members in Northern Ireland and understood to control significant drugs turf in Lurgan, Portadown, Craigavon, Waringstown, Lisburn and, more recently, Newry.

In 2019, the gang assassinated a rival drugs boss in a high-profile killing.    

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