A haulage boss who controlled the transportation of drugs and cash across Europe from his living room during lockdown has been jailed for more than 14-years.
Irishman, Thomas Maher, 40, was caught when law enforcement agencies across Europe cracked the encrypted phone network - Encrochat - which he and other organised criminal gangs used to conduct their unlawful activities.
Liverpool Crown Court heard how Maher was a key figure in the transportation of £1.5million worth of cocaine from Holland to Ireland between March and May.
He used Encrochat to plan the transportation and also to arrange the laundering of around £1 million in profits.
He used the proceeds of his crimes to buy a fleet of luxury cars and enjoy lavish holidays to Dubai, Mexico and New York.
The father of three, who lives in Warrington, Cheshire, was sentenced to 14-years and eight months after pleading guilty to four counts of conspiracy to commit a crime abroad at an earlier hearing.
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, 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.”
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 had been arrested at his home on June 13, the same day Encrochat issued an alert telling users it had been compromised.
Maher had been arrested in October last year after the deaths of 39 Vietnamese people found in a shipping container in Essex. He was never charged in connection with the deaths.
But a count of conspiracy to cause grievous bodily harm to Ronan Hughes - one of the men who admitted the manslaughter of 39 Vietnamese migrants - was ordered to lie on the file after Maher pleaded not guilty.
A spokesman for the National Crime Agency (NCA) said officers had seized vehicles including a high-end Range Rover, Land Rover Discovery and an imported Corvette worth £70,000 following his arrest.
NCA branch commander Martin Clarke said: "Maher moved in the highest criminal circles, acting as a logistics man for some of the UK, Ireland and Europe's most notorious organised crime groups who trusted him with their drugs and money.
"We believe the offences he has been convicted of represent just the tip of the iceberg in terms of his overall criminality.
"He bragged in EncroChat messages about being involved in organised crime for over 20 years, during which time it's highly likely he shipped tonnes of drugs and tens of millions of pounds around Europe.”
Maher is thought to be the first major crime boss to be jailed following the cracking of the Encrochat network.