Trainee employment lawyer, 27, is jailed for six years

Trainee employment lawyer, 27, who worked for legal helpline giving advice on unfair dismissal and used EncroChat network to sell 20kg of ketamine and move £1.5m in cash is jailed for six years

  • Neema Seifzadeh, 27, sold 20kg of ketamine over a ten week period, court heard
  • He was arrested after police hacked into his criminal conversations on Encrochat
  • Jonathan Musgrove, 27, admitted conspiracy to supply cocaine and ketamine

A trainee employment lawyer and his drug dealer business partner who used the encrypted phone network EncroChat to supply ketamine and cocaine have been jailed.   

Neema Seifzadeh, 27, a law school graduate, used the illicit communications network to help move £1.5million in cash and supplied 20kg of ketamine to clubbers over a ten week period.

The company managing director’s son was arrested after police infiltrated the EncroChat network and were able to access his criminal conversations.

They found he was working in tandem with drug trafficker Jason Musgrove, also 27, who had ketamine debts of up to £90,000.    

Police raided the luxury quayside apartments of both men near Manchester and seized a haul of Rolex watches, a £2,000 mountain bike, money and designer clothing.

Seifzadeh, who worked on a helpline giving pro bono legal advice on unfair dismissal and redundancy issues, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply ketamine and was sentenced to six years behind bars at Manchester Crown Court.

Musgrove, who lived in a £350,000 flat in Salford Quays, was jailed for 16-and-a-half years after he admitted conspiracy to supply cocaine and ketamine and plotting to supply a Skorpion machine gun pistol.

Neema Seifzadeh (left), 27, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply ketamine and was sentenced to six years behind bars. Jason Musgrove (right), 27, was jailed for 16-and-a-half years after he admitted conspiracy to supply cocaine and ketamine and plotting to supply a Skorpion machine gun pistol

Both men had no previous history of trouble with the police.         

The pair became business partners in 2020 after Musgrove decided to sell cocaine to pay off his ketamine dealers. 

What is the ‘EncroChat’ smartphone system?

EncroChat was a communications company based in France. 

The company sold phones that had various features removed to improve security. 

The secret platform saw users communicate privately between specially-designed handsets – often to run drugs, traffick people and even order murders.

The devices, costing £1,500, were usually Android-based smartphones with their GPS sensors, microphones, and cameras stripped out and encrypted chat apps installed by default to allow people to send private messages. 

The network enabled users to send written messages or make voice calls through an encrypted system. 

Seifzadeh and Musgrove were caught by Manchester Police after the force joined a large EncroChat investigation launched in the UK.

Operation Venetic, which saw UK forces work with the National Crime Agency, led to 746 arrests and the seizure of £54m in criminal cash, 77 firearms and over two tonnes of drugs.

Operation Venetic was the biggest and most significant operation of its kind in the UK, according to the NCA.

Speaking at the time of the operation NCA Director of Investigations Nikki Holland, said: ‘The infiltration of this command and control communication platform for the UK’s criminal marketplace is like having an inside person in every top organised crime group in the country.

‘This is the broadest and deepest ever UK operation into serious organised crime.

‘The NCA is proud to have led the UK part of this operation, working in partnership with policing and other agencies. The results have been outstanding but this is just the start.’

The investigation in the UK began after officers in France and the Netherlands infiltrated the platform.  

The encrypted messaging system first came to the attention of the French Gendarmerie in 2017.

In 2020, the French Gendarmerie and the Dutch police formed a joint investigation team (JIT) and infiltrated EncroChat as part of an EU-wide investigation.

The joint investigation team was supported by Europol and data retrieved was distributed to other European partners including the UK, Norway and Sweden.  

Police infiltrated their EncroChat messages to find them communicating with a network of suppliers.

Musgrove, who called himself ‘Vic Tyson’, was in contact with 16 criminal associates including suppliers of drugs and mixing agents and couriers and arranged for deliveries to be made by unsuspecting UPS drivers.

Harriet Lavin prosecuting said. ‘Both men dealt with at least 14 customers and on occasions were in contact with those able to supply and top up encrypted telephones. The conspiracy was well established and involved those with close pre-existing and trusted relationships.

‘The extent of conversations prove their involvement in the high level supply of kilo quantities cocaine for Musgrove, and ketamine for both using a number of known couriers provided with unique passwords to ensure the integrity of the exchanges of cash and drugs.

‘The conversations recorded only give an insight into the extent of criminality. The conversations are not reflective of the entire extent of their contacts.  

‘Over a ten week period Musgrove was involved in discussions about supplying 100kg of cocaine and 64kg of ketamine. 

‘He was also involved in the purchase of carious adulterants and the movement of at least £1.5m. 

‘He acquired and supplied at least 20kg of cocaine and spoke openly about the completion of the supply of at least 45kg of ketamine.

‘One EncroChat user asked Musgrove if he could acquire a firearm. At the time he said he could and intended to assist and made inquiries but then decided he did not want to be involved with any supply of firearms or ammunition.’

Seifzadeh – who used the alias ‘Grapejuice’ – would contact users ‘downstream’ of suppliers and also keep a record of people that owed the duo money, and calculated their profits.

Miss Lavin added: ‘He was involved in discussions with Musgrove surrounding the supply of 45kg of ketamine, the cutting of the drug with adulterants, joint finances and he was directly involved in keeping a record in relation to debtors lists and profits.’   

In one exchange Musgrove said he had a debt of £80,000 and complained to Seifzadah that a £8000 haul of Ketamine remained unsold. 

Later they discussed owning an associate £57,000. 

One customer returned a haul of cocaine due to its poor quality. 

Musgrove also talked of supplying the Skorpion pistol to another supplier for £15,750 – but no weapon was sold.

Both men were arrested in July 2020 but both gave no comment in a police interview. They also refused to provide pin codes to their mobile phones.

Musgrove was found in possession of a GT Sensor Support mountain bike, Luis Vuitton sunglasses UAE bank notes, a Rolex watch and other items. 

Seifzadeh had two Rolex watches, two Apple iBooks and designer clothing.

In mitigation for Seifzadeh, defence counsel Michael Lavery said. ‘He was the junior partner in this enterprise, he was the downstream supplier to Musgrove, developing contacts to enable lower scale distribution.

Law school graduate Seifzadeh worked on a helpline giving pro bono legal advice on unfair dismissal and redundancy issues

Police seized a haul of Rolex watches, a £2,000 mountain bike, money and designer clothing when the raided the properties of the men,  Manchester Crown Court (pictured) heard

‘He is of good character and comes from an impeccable family background. He is a man with intelligence and has made a terrible mistake involving himself in this behaviour. 

‘He had prospects and a future and now he has thrown it away for stupid involving in offending of such seriousness. His family are prepared to give ongoing support to him. It is very unlikely he will offend again. 

‘He has shown genuine remorse and appreciates he has brought real shame and upset to his mother and father.’

Oliver Cook for Musgrove, said: ‘He comes from a very good family. There is no criminal offending in his background or in theirs.

‘He is introverted and socially awkward. He began self-medicating with ketamine and fell in with the wrong people. He accrued an enormous debt of around £80,000-or-£90,000 which he decided to try paying off by dealing cocaine. He was using a lot of drugs at the time. His family did what they could to help him but he became lost to them.

‘It was a sense of relief to them when he was arrested primarily due to the fact that he wasn’t already dead.’ 

Sentencing Judge Nicholas Dean QC said: ‘You are both comparatively young men. More importantly is the fact that you are of good character and have not been in trouble before.

‘Both of you were involved in very serious offending indeed involving Encrochat phones. There is no legitimate reason to use an EncroChat phone. They are exclusively used in crime and exclusively used at a high level dealing in Class A and B drugs. The use of the phones is an indication of the sophistication of the offending.’

A proceeds of crime hearing will be held later this year.

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