LAW enforcement teams have carried out more than 45 arrests and seized £3.1million of criminal cash and more than 86kgs of drugs.

The work of the South East Regional Organised Crime Unit (SEROCU), Hampshire Police and other forces across the South East has been labelled as having "punched huge holes in the region's organised crime network".

The action was unveiled alongside a raft of over multi-agency work across the country in Operation Venetic, which "smashed thousands of criminal conspiracies" including a global communication network - EncroChat - used "exclusively by criminals".

EncroChat reportedly offers a secure phone messaging service used for planning, and the distribution of illegal commodities.

Assistant Chief Constable Pete O’Doherty, South East Regional lead for Counter Terrorism and Organised Crime, said: “Operation Venetic, led by the National Crime Agency (NCA), has been a success due to the partnership working involved across all of policing, both in the UK and abroad.

“The operations carried out across the South East region would not have been possible without our local police forces involvement and support.

“This has not only been the biggest operation to take place in the South East but the results are deeply significant as well. Not only with the goods seized but also the disruption this will cause to serious and organised crime groups operating in our communities.

“I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the SEROCU investigators and all the forces and officers from across the South East for their tireless work.

“These criminals may have felt untouchable, using a system they thought was under the radar of law enforcement, but this technology is now being used against them.

“A committed joint objective by law enforcement across the country will be to continue to keep one step ahead of these criminals.

“There is still work to be done and SEROCU and our partners are dedicated to pursuing those who are involved in serious and organised crime and will continue to disrupt this criminality and bring those found to be involved to justice.”

Across Hampshire, these local operations have resulted more than £600,000 in cash seized.

In addition, nine arrests were made for offences including drugs supply and money laundering.

Detective Chief Superintendent Scott Mackechnie, from Hampshire Constabulary, said: “We are committed to tackling those organised criminals who bring harm to our communities through drugs supply and its associated violence.

“We will continue to work with our partners at both a regional and a national level to ensure those responsible are brought to justice and that we maximise every opportunity to strip them of their illicit gains.”

As reported, one part of Operation Venetic saw the NCA stop a group suspected of attempting to import cocaine from South America into the south of England on a cruise ship, with the vessell being stopped in the Solent.

Supported by Border Force, the NCA Operation Sylleptic led to three people being arrested earlier this year, including a crew member of the cruise ship.

Two others from the north of England were later arrested, one at the Channel Tunnel terminal in Kent as they tried to flee the UK.

The cruise ship arrests took place on April 25 and were part of a major NCA announcement on efforts to fight criminal conspiracies.

All five people suspected of attempting to smuggle drugs have been charged and now await trial.