Wealthy Haulage Boss Used Encrypted Phone Network To Run Drugs Ring

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A wealthy haulage boss who ran a Europe-wide drug ring from his living room using an encrypted phone network has been jailed for 14 years.
Irishman Thomas Maher helped transport £1.5million worth of cocaine from the [/news/the-netherlands/index.html Netherlands] to Ireland from his suburban home in Warrington during lockdown.
He appeared at Liverpool Crown Court today after previously admitting to four counts of conspiracy to commit a [/news/crime/index.html crime] abroad.      
The court heard the 40-year-old played a role in conspiracies to traffic around £1.5million worth of cocaine to Ireland via the UK and launder about £1million in cash. 
The father-of-three, of Warrington, Cheshire, used encrypted phone network Encrochat - which was accessed by law enforcement agencies across Europe earlier this year - to plan the transportation, the court heard. 
Thomas Maher, 40, was described as 'an extremely important cog,' in a conspiracy to transport £1.5million worth of cocaine and launder £1million between the Netherlands and Ireland
The haulage boss ran the Europe-wide drug ring from his living room in Warrington (Maher's home pictured) during lockdown
Sentencing him, Judge David Aubrey QC said: 'You were an extremely important cog in the wheel of a sophisticated network of distribution of class A controlled drugs which had an international element.
'You were a trusted organiser, http://pandora.nla.gov.au/external.html?link=https://check.vhearts.net/article-rewriter playing a part in where goods were to be exchanged, how parties would be able to identify each other when drugs were to be conveyed and how.
'Drugs cause desperation and misery, they are a cancer in our midst, but for those like you it matters not as long as financial profit is being achieved.' 
Maher, who used the Encrochat handles Satirical and Snacker for his messages, was arrested in October last year after the deaths of 39 Vietnamese people found in a shipping container in Essex, but was never charged in connection with the deaths.
A spokesman for the National Crime Agency said officers seized vehicles including a high-end Range Rover, Land Rover Discovery and an imported Corvette worth £70,000 following his arrest.
The National Crime Agency said officers seized vehicles including a high-end Range Rover, Land Rover Discovery and an imported Corvette worth £70,000 following his arrest
Maher, who was arrested but never charged following the deaths of Vietnamese migrants found in the back of a lorry in Grays last year, has been jailed for 14 years 
Officers seized thousands of euros bundled together following Maher's arrest on June 13 
He spent thousands on holidays to Dubai, Mexico and New York and while in Dubai bought artwork including a map of the world made up of bullets. 
He spent thousands on holidays to Dubai, Mexico and New York and while in Dubai bought artwork including a map of the world made up of bullets, the spokesman said.
The judge said Maher, owner of Thomas Maher Transport Ltd, provided 'expertise' from owning a haulage business within the operation.
Catherine Rabaiotti, prosecuting, said Maher was arrested at his home on June 13, the same day Encrochat issued an alert telling users it had been compromised.
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Neither of the two Encrochat devices linked to him were recovered, the court heard.
Ms Rabaiotti said messages showed him acting as a go-between and 'logistics manager'.
She said: 'Passwords, times, details of stops and prices were passed through the defendant acting as a middle-man for the parties.' 
John Dye, defending, said Maher received between 3,000 and 5,000 euros (£2,700-£4,500) for the plots he was charged with involvement in.
He said: 'That's a very small amount compared to the value of the overall conspiracy.'
Maher, who also had a collection of valuable watches, was arrested at his home on June 13, the same day Encrochat issued an alert telling users it had been compromised.
Maher, from Cheshire, appeared at Liverpool Crown Court today after previously admitting to four counts of conspiracy to commit a crime abroad
Maher was arrested in October last year after the deaths of 39 Vietnamese people found in a shipping container in Essex, but was never charged in connection with the deaths
Mr Dye said Maher had pleaded guilty and not attempted to legally challenge the evidence from the Encrochat devices, adding: 'He has been brave enough to put up his hands as quickly as possible and not mess the court around.'
A count of conspiracy to commit a crime abroad - that of conspiracy to cause grievous bodily harm to Ronan Hughes in Ireland between April 21 and 29 this year - was ordered to lie on the file after Maher pleaded not guilty.
Haulier Hughes, 40, from Co Armagh in Northern Ireland, pleaded guilty at the Old Bailey in August to 39 counts of manslaughter following the deaths of the Vietnamese migrants.