GANG suspects in Sussex are among those arrested when a top secret phone code was cracked by police.

Officers from the National Crime Agency broke the EncroChat system, used by thousands of criminals to hide their messages and operations.

It has led to one of the biggest series of arrests of top gang leaders in the agency’s history.

Across the country £54 million has been seized along with two tonnes of drugs and dozens of guns.

More than 750 suspects have been arrested across Europe, including criminals described as “kingpins” as part of Operation Venetic.

Here in Sussex, the force has worked alongside the South East Region Organised Crime Unit (Serocu), the NCA and Surrey Police. 

In one series of raids six kilos of heroin was seized along with £323,000 cash.

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Former Brighton Police Commander Graham Bartlett, who retired in 2013, said it was a dramatic result for forces across the country.

He said: “There will no doubt be some criminals around Westdene and Whitehawk who will be feeling nervous about this in the weeks ahead.”

Joint raids in Haslemere and Midhurst bagged half a kilo of cocaine and £260,000 in cash.

On June 19 officers carried out a drugs bust at an address in St Leonards Road, Bexhill. 

Half a kilo of heroin was seized, and a 29-year-old man and 18-year-old woman were arrested on suspicion of being concerned in the supply of Class A drugs. 

After being interviewed the man was released on police bail until July 17, and the woman was released under investigation.

As many as 60,000 people were believed to use the EncroChat app, among them up to 10,000 in Britain. The app has now been taken down.

The system operated on Android mobile phones and, according to its website, provided “worry-free secure communications”.

The Metropolitan Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick described the breakthrough as a “game changer”.

Her force made 132 arrests and she said: “This is just the beginning. We will be disrupting organised criminal networks as a result of these operations for weeks and months and possibly years to come.”

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Meanwhile Sussex Police Detective Chief Inspector Andy Bennett said: “This was a large scale international operation in which both Sussex and Surrey police were very keen to take an active part in.

“Working with our partners at a regional and national level we have been able to increase our effectiveness in tackling serious and organised crime, resulting in a number of arrests, taking large quantities of controlled drugs out of circulation and seizing criminal assets. 

“We have many live investigations that will continue and anticipate further developments over the coming weeks.

“This is another example of how law enforcement agencies from across the country are working together to protect our communities, catch criminals, and disrupt those intent on causing harm.”