NCA Director Terminated Over Serious Security Breaches via WhatsApp and Email

Nikki Holland, former director of investigations at the National Crime Agency (NCA), faced dismissal for “misconduct” following a severe information security breach. The incident involved Holland transmitting sensitive NCA information through personal email and WhatsApp, according to reports.

Holland, who led high-profile criminal investigations, including the Operation Venetic probe into organized crime’s use of EncroChat encrypted phones, was found to have breached NCA standards during an internal disciplinary hearing on December 21, 2023. The breach encompassed the sending of classified and secret NCA material via personal email and WhatsApp groups.

The NCA clarified that the security breaches did not exhibit malign intent. Holland retains the right to appeal her dismissal. Additionally, the NCA is examining another allegation regarding Holland instructing staff to set WhatsApp messages on NCA phones for automatic deletion during a case under Operation Venetic in late 2020.

An independent investigation by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) into allegations of data protection breaches, bullying, and misuse of public funds involving Holland and another NCA officer is ongoing.

The NCA’s disciplinary panel, addressing 16 allegations against Holland, upheld two allegations of “gross misconduct” and two allegations of “misconduct.” Notably, Holland was found to have committed “gross misconduct” by using a personal email address to transmit sensitive NCA material.

Despite the security breach, the NCA expressed confidence that ongoing prosecutions, including those resulting from Operation Venetic, would not be adversely affected.

The IOPC spokesperson stated that their independent investigation into Holland and the other officer is ongoing, emphasizing the need for due diligence in addressing the serious allegations. The NCA affirmed its commitment to robust information security policies, procedures, and training, underscoring the importance of adhering to guidelines regarding the use of personal accounts and devices for sensitive material.

Holland’s distinguished career included roles in Merseyside Police and South Wales Police before joining the National Crime Agency. Her termination follows the agency’s commitment to upholding stringent security measures to protect sensitive information.

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