1. GA-English
  2. News

Searches also in Lohmar: Seven arrests in drug raids in nine NRW cities

Searches also in Lohmar : Seven arrests in drug raids in nine NRW cities

Another large-scale raid in NRW – again because of so-called Encrochats. The evaluation of the underworld's messenger service has led investigators to another marijuana ring. There were searches in arrests, including in Lohmar.

With the search of numerous properties and seven arrests, the police in North Rhine-Westphalia have achieved a major success against organised drug crime. A total of eleven properties in nine cities in North Rhine-Westphalia were searched from 6:00 a.m. on Thursday morning. The searches in a former and empty furniture store in Gelsenkirchen and a former company premises in Duisburg were "direct hits", said head of operations Klaus Müller of the Hagen police at a press conference.

In Gelsenkirchen alone, four large plantations with cannabis plants for the production of marijuana were found, another one in Duisburg. In total, about 2,600 plants were seized. "This is a great success," said Müller, who estimates the value of the drugs at up to one million euros. In addition, there was the "enormous value" of the technical equipment seized.

The plants found and the "very professional" equipment for the lighting, ventilation and irrigation systems were so extensive and heavy that police logistics were not sufficient. According to Müller, special logistics companies were hired to transport some of the equipment in containers.

Eleven properties in NRW searched

The main suspect is a 41-year-old man who was arrested in Herne. The suspected mastermind of the drug gang has been known to the authorities for a long time. According to senior public prosecutor, Gerhard Pauli, there are several cases against him for drug offences from 2013 and 2014. He had been in hiding for years before he turned himself in to the authorities in April. However, he was released on bail because his offences had been committed a long time ago and he could prove that he had a permanent job in the real estate sector. It was precisely these connections that the 41-year-old apparently used to select the appropriate properties and objects for growing the plants. Müller did not rule out connections to organised crime. "I can't say one hundred percent. But the suspicion is close."

The searches of a total of eleven properties of different nature took place in Essen, Bochum, Herne, Lohmar, Wiehl, Iserlohn and Engelskirchen in addition to Gelsenkirchen and Duisburg. Six other suspects were provisionally arrested who are suspected, among other things, of having worked in the plantations. The main suspect is facing charges of commercial cultivation and trafficking of narcotics.

NRW Interior Minister Herbert Reul (CDU) was pleased with the latest coup. "The NRW police are currently delivering month after month," he told the Deutsche Presse-Agentur on Thursday. He praised his officers: "Today's operation brings us another step forward in the fight against organised drug crime." He added that this was "a huge business that puts people's health at risk".

Analysis of so-called Encrochat data

According to senior public prosecutor Pauli, the raids were based on the evaluation of so-called Encrochat data. The especially encrypted messenger service is mainly used by criminals. Police in the Netherlands and France had succeeded in siphoning off more than 20 million secret messages last year. 60,000 participants had used the chat service because the technology was said to be difficult to crack, the European judicial authority Eurojust announced in July 2020. Based on this data and chat histories, the investigation team in Hagen was able to filter out the suspects and the properties searched in months of „very detailed work" (Müller). According to Müller, undercover investigators were also used in the process.

The French police had shared their findings with the Federal Criminal Police Office, which in turn involved the authorities in the individual federal states and locally. In NRW, there had been several searches in connection with Encrochat data in recent months. At the end of June, the police had arrested several members of the criminal management level of the Miri clan in a raid with a focus on Dortmund - as a result of the data treasure trove. At that time, cocaine was involved. In July and August, further searches followed in the Lippe district and in the Mettmann region.

At the Hagen Regional Court alone, there have already been 16 indictments against 25 to 30 persons this year due to the evaluation of the data from this network, the public prosecutor's office explained. Almost all of them involved drug offences.

Original text: dpa

Translation: Mareike Graepel