A boxer turned to shifting drugs and cash for an organised crime gang at the start of the pandemic.

Joe Fisher, 34, used heavily-encrypted phone network Encrochat to speak to his employers in the drugs conspiracy during the spring and early summer of 2020.

The enterprise was uncovered after French police managed to hack into the Encrochat servers, handing over reams of material to police forces worldwide.

The wider conspiracy, whose leaders remain at large, was thought to have handled more than 100kgs of cocaine.

However, messages linked to Fisher suggested ‘at least’ 3kgs of the class A drug passed through his hands, as well as a kilogramme of cannabis and £144,000 in cash.

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When police seized the former welterweight boxer’s family home in Harwell they found scales and other paraphernalia. Officers also recovered almost £28,800 in dirty cash and an extendable baton.

Herald Series: Some of the cash seized by detectives when they searched Joe Fisher's home Picture: TVPSome of the cash seized by detectives when they searched Joe Fisher's home Picture: TVP

Fisher, of Walnut Place, Harwell, pleaded guilty at Oxford Crown Court on Friday to conspiracy to supply class A and B drugs between April 5 and June 6, 2020. He admitted a money laundering charge at the magistrates’ court.

Jailing him for six years and eight months, Recorder Anthony Cartin said: “On any view, this was a serious organised drug business that you were operating both within and running yourself.”

Mitigating, Nawaz Khan said his client was a dad-of-two who, after a string of convictions for petty violence in his younger years, had been out of trouble since 2013. The talented amateur boxer volunteered his time helping young people at South Moreton Boxing Club.

The advocate said of the offending: “It was the beginning of the covid period. Mr Fisher was then 32 years of age. He was struggling financially. He had a young family – a partner and two young children. He was working part-time at the South Moreton Boxing Club [and] working on building sites.

“Because of the pandemic the work situation was very limited and his income drastically reduced.

“He made a very foolish decision in taking up an opportunity that presented itself [to get involved in the conspiracy]."

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Herald Series: Joe Fisher's police mugshot Picture: TVPJoe Fisher's police mugshot Picture: TVP

The case is the latest to make its way through Oxford Crown Court where the conspirators have been undone by their own Encrochat messages.

Last year, cocaine dealer Malachi Charles’ claim that he had smashed through a Littlemore stash house door in order to retrieve keys was unmasked as a lie when police retrieved Encro messages between the 40-year-old, who had the username ‘Satin Seal’, and an unidentified dealer known only as ‘WaspsPirate’. Charles eventually admitted that he had been sent to retrieve cash stored at the property after another member of the gang was arrested on Cowley Road.

And earlier this month, Richard Gray received 21 years’ imprisonment for his part at the centre of a conspiracy that arranged the onward supply of scores of kilos of cocaine. The deals with major suppliers were initially arranged via Encrochat.

Gray even boasted to his brother, Patrick, of having ‘dodged a big ****ing bullet’ by apparently evading arrest in the wake of French police cracking the network.

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This story was written by Tom Seaward. He joined the team in 2021 as Oxfordshire's court and crime reporter.  

To get in touch with him email: Tom.Seaward@newsquest.co.uk

Follow him on Twitter: @t_seaward