Some of Merseyside's most notorious suspected criminals were brought down by an international bust of a once-untraceable phone system that helped them plot murders and massive drug deals in secret.

On Thursday, law enforcement agencies across the UK, and extending into Europe, revealed how their successful smashing of the EncroChat encrypted network had netted them nearly 750 people alleged to be embroiled in top-level offending.

Also scooped up were 77 guns, £54 million of cash, and two tonnes of drugs.

It has been unequivocally described as the biggest assault on serious organised crime that Britain has ever seen.

The ECHO understands well-known crime figures from Merseyside have been taken into custody as result of the global crackdown.

Details of who they are and what they did cannot yet be reported, but significant players in the county's underworld scene have been caught by police.

Police at the home of a gun supplier suspect in Melling, Merseyside before he is arrested and led away to custody

That includes active plots to kill rivals on the streets of Merseyside and extremely serious handling of weapons and guns destined to reach the hands of potential killers who had their targets already in their sights.

The EncroChat phones have already been used by paid assassins in recent years to bring about bloodshed in the county and were used in murders in Merseyside, Manchester and other parts of the UK.

The devices were sometimes used to alert marksmen when targets were approaching their hideouts so they were ready to strike.

The specialist handsets were installed with software so advanced that all incriminating information would be wiped from the device, even when seized by police.

While the EncroChat phones are legal, they instantly became a must-have for many gangsters and their accomplices as part of their illegal tool-kit.

Expensive to own, costing £1,500 for just six months, the devices have a catalogue of passwords and security stages to pass through, before anything incriminating can even be seen.

A drugs seizure in Anfield

On Thursday, the EncroChat servers were shut down by French and Dutch authorities.

In recent days and weeks, suspects on Merseyside have been charged with offences including conspiracy to commit grievous bodily harm, conspiracy to murder and conspiracy to supply controlled drugs, the "conspiracy" element indicating how deadly plots were allegedly halted before they came to pass.

In total, over a period of about a month, police in Merseyside arrested more than 30 people, recovered more than £2m in cash, 25 kilos of Class A drugs, 450 cannabis plants, 28 kilos of Class B drugs and 1.5 tonnes of mixing agents.

On Wednesday alone, five early morning warrants were executed in locations including Melling, Halewood and Anfield.

Three men, one in his 50s from Melling, and two men, in their 30s, from Anfield, were arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to supply guns, cocaine and cannabis.

They have all been bailed.

The huge cocaine haul hidden in children's toys when a delivery was made to a house while police were already searching it

Details of all the police action remains not fully explained, but the ECHO understands two of Wednesday's raids were in Anfield, and two were in Halewood, one of them on Rainbow Drive.

Other criminal operations across the county even had links with the city.

One gang, based in Nottinghamshire, had a notable reach into Liverpool and raids on that crime group's addresses led to the seizure of 7.5kg of cocaine and heroin and £620,000 in cash, and five arrests.

In Cheshire, as part of the international EncroChat bust, seven men were arrested, five kilos of cannabis and cocaine seized and £92,000 of cash recovered.

"Lifestyle items" including designer clothing worth in excess of £100,000, jewellery including high value watches, motorbikes, motor cars, mountain bikes and devices exceeding £100,000.

Much of those targeted were in Widnes and Warrington.

Police arrest a suspect and break down a door as part of a huge international serious organised crime group investigation on Merseyside, the UK and throughout Europe

Back in Liverpool and Knowsley, three guns were found, secreted in the loft of a home, empty when police raided it last week, on John Bagot Close in Everton.

Those weapons - a Ruger 9mm handgun, a Beretta shotgun and a revolver and ammunition - will be forensically examined.

In another case in Huyton, detectives already in the house of one suspect for a warrant, got an unexpected bonus when a package was delivered into the hands of the occupant.

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Initially thought to be a bundle of toys, a quick look inside revealed it contained 8kgs - potentially about £600,000 worth - of cocaine.

Following the announcement of June's groundbreaking blitz, investigators told how they are now "far more enlightened" about the secretive inner workings of organised crime groups in the UK, some of whom had felt "completely untouchable" before the Encrochat hack.

Law enforcement organisations across Europe now have a "real appetite" to stay on top of new technologies "to conduct further misery on those groups" in the wake of the breach, said Shane Williams, the regional head of investigations for the National Crime Agency (NCA).

Anfield designer shoes seized

Mr Williams said police, thanks to the destruction of the military-grade encrypted communication system, had been able to target young rising gangsters in the underworld who could have been on their way to "iconic/untouchable" status, and said he hopes the flurry of arrests and seizures acts as a deterrent to future generations.

The law enforcement official of some 30 years experience said: "This is the most emphatic opportunity to disrupt organised crime I have seen.

"It's been very interesting to understand the workings of some of these crime groups, and not only that but look at the amount of violence they offer and also the amount of cash they have accessible at any one time.

"It's caused a massive disruption and it's going to massively impact the confidence of those groups, some of which would have thought they were completely untouchable.

"They were very confident in terms of what they were divulging because clearly they thought they were untouchable and that the method was impenetrable.

"Clearly our prioritisation in terms of organised crime groups has changed somewhat because we're now far more enlightened in terms of the extent of organised crime across the UK.

"That has changed our methods in terms of who we target and why.

"I think now more than ever the NCA, policing, regional organised crime units and our partners in Europe have got a real appetite to continue, work hard, invest in technology in order to put us on an equal playing field."