UPDATED WITH SENTENCE: Merseyside man convicted of selling cannabis on an industrial scale
A Merseyside man has been convicted of selling cannabis on an industrial scale.
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said that Kevin Baker, 36, of Montgomery Road, Huyton, was a key player in a large scale drugs conspiracy. At one point, Baker spoke of having access to 58 kilos of cannabis. He was convicted of conspiracy to supply cannabis today (26 November 2021) by a majority verdict following a trial at Liverpool Crown Court.
On 4 January 2022, at Liverpool Crown Court he was sentenced to four years' imprisonment.
His co-accused, Michael Morson, was sentenced to a total of eight years and seven months. Morson had pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to playing a significant role as a distributor of large quantities of Cocaine (10 kilos) and Heroin (four kilos).
A Proceeds of Crime timetable has been set for the two to repay to the State the money they made from their crimes.
Baker conducted his business via a so-called “Encrochat” phone – a mobile phone that was encrypted and could not be hacked into by the police.
Organised crime gangs have been using these phones for some time and they are expensive. A six-month contract would typically cost between £1,200 to £1,500.
However, in June 2020, international police forces managed to access the stored messages from the Encrochat platform. Several prosecutions have followed throughout Europe, including Britain.
Encrochat users don’t use their real names, but false names, known as “handles”. The police have managed to establish the true identity of the users by analysing their individual messages and personal information.
Baker’s “handle” was “sun-viking”. The police traced the messages on the phone back to Baker by number plate recognition of the Citroen van he used for much of his business and cell-site technology. He sent many of the messages when he was in transit in the van. There was also reference to other personal details and the fact that he bred dogs to be sold.
Baker was arrested on 22 April 2021. Following today’s guilty verdict, he will be sentenced on 4 January 2022 at Liverpool Crown Court.
District Crown Prosecutor Jonathan Egan, of CPS Mersey-Cheshire Complex Casework Unit, said: “Kevin Baker was buying and selling cannabis on an industrial scale and making thousands of pounds.
“Baker was using an Encrochat phone for his business that he thought was encrypted and couldn’t be hacked by the authorities so he talked pretty freely on it at times.
“The information he and his fellow criminals exchanged helped us trace the phone to him. There were references to Baker’s side line in breeding dogs for sale, other personal details and his address. The messages made it clear that “sun-viking” was dealing cannabis on a large scale. The jury have agreed with the CPS that “sun-viking” was Kevin Baker and found him guilty.
“Organised criminals think they can cheat the authorities and get away with their dangerous and destructive trade. Encrochat phones were the latest weapon in their armoury until the police cracked the platform.
“Many complex prosecutions have resulted from that and the police and the Crown Prosecution Service are making substantial progress in closing off another element of this evil trade.”