FIVE suspected members of a Bolton-based organised crime group involved in drugs supply and money laundering have been arrested as part of National Crime Agency operation.

NCA officers arrested the first two men, aged 34 and 58, on May 11 for money laundering offences, following a cash handover in Bolton.

Surveillance officers had watched the money be transported before the men were detained. £400,000 in cash was seized.

As the investigation continued, NCA investigators used intelligence obtained from the EncroChat platform to identify additional members of the network.

Last week the NCA announced that it had been working with international law enforcement since 2016 to target EncroChat – the supplier of encrypted devices used by criminals worldwide to coordinate the planning and distribution of illicit commodities.

The arrests stem from Operation Venetic, the largest ever UK investigation into serious and organised crime.

Two more suspects, aged 31 and 43, were arrested for money laundering and drugs offences on July 8 after officers executed warrants.

£60,000 in cash and two luxury watches were recovered across three properties in the region.

A fifth man, 34, was also later arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to supply class A drugs and money laundering.

All five have either been released under investigation or on bail.

Mark Spoors, Branch Commander at the NCA, said: “This operation has made a huge dent in a criminal network we believe is responsible for supplying drugs in the North West, on top of laundering criminal cash.

“It’s yet another example of the impact in localities up and down the country of Operation Venetic, the most significant investigation into serious and organised crime we have seen in this country.

“The NCA, and our law enforcement partners, are working together to bear down on the criminals the pose the highest risk to the UK. Rest assured, we are not done yet.”