The organised crime group is believed to be led by two brothers, one of whom is thought to be in Dubai.

Eight men have been arrested as part of a suspected organised crime group (OCG) dealing in Class A and B drugs and a firearm.

The suspects – whose ages range from 25 to 40 – were arrested on Thursday 16th Sept across the North West of England as part of a National Crime Agency (NCA) investigation emerging from Operation Venetic – the UK’s law enforcement response to the takedown of encrypted comms platform EncroChat.

In a series of co-ordinated strikes, NCA officers arrested two men in Cheshire, one in Greater Manchester and Merseyside Police officers supporting the investigation arrested five suspects at locations across Liverpool.

The OCG is believed to be led by two brothers, one of whom is believed to be in Dubai. The other was arrested in January and released on bail.

The NCA investigation is into the importation and supply of cocaine and cannabis, money laundering and a conspiracy to supply a firearm.

NCA Branch Commander Richard Davies said: “We suspect the men arrested to be part of an organised crime group that has been importing cocaine into the UK and selling it on across the country.

“As well as the international work the NCA does to fight Class A drugs coming into the UK, this investigation is an example of the work we do to keep drugs – and drug dealers – away from our communities where they have devastating consequences.

“We will continue to work with our partners abroad to target those at the top of the drugs chain, and UK partners such as Merseyside Police and Cheshire Police to protect the public.”