A GANGLAND figure was snared after police cracked encrypted phones during a probe into drugs and guns.

David Hough is now behind bars following a raid on a 'street valium' factory in Johnstone.

Guns and hand grenades were found during a separate swoop at a house in the Milton area of Glasgow.

Police carried out the raids last June as part of Operation Gadget, which focused on an organised crime gang.

This was linked to the Europe-wide Operation Venetic – an investigation into the top secret Encrochat phone network used by criminals.

A judge heard how detectives hacked into encrypted devices used by 41-year-old Hough and his trusted lieutenant Hugh McHugh.

This included a text asking: "Have you anywhere to put a tool box with a few shotguns in it?"

Hough and McHugh, 43, today admitted a charge of being involved in serious organised crime between April and June last year.

The High Court in Glasgow heard that Hough – nicknamed 'Murfy' – was hauled back from Spain last year to face justice.

A total of 228,000 etizolam tablets – also known as 'the blue plague' – with a potential value of £114,000 were recovered during the raid on the pills factory in a "hidden location" within an industrial unit in Johnstone's Rannoch Road on June 10.

The court heard Hough was involved in the "business and marketing side" of the drugs lab, with McHugh having a "hands-on role."

Prosecutor Lindsey Dalziel said: “The organised crime group’s operation in Scotland consisted of the storage and adulteration of class-A drugs and the production of etizolam tablets for onward supply.

“They used commercial and industrial premises and vehicles, as well as some residential home addresses, to store drugs, adulterants, firearms and money.

“The lab was found on June 10, 2020, where the tablets were sold in varying quantities as street valium in areas such as Milton, in Glasgow.”

A machine found in the Johnstone lab had the potential to produce a further 118,000 tablets per hour.

Police later established that the padlocked premises were next to the home of gang associate Eric Morrison.

The court was told two hand grenades, five slam guns, a revolver and more than 50 bullets were discovered at the house in Milton.

A total of £27,650 worth of cocaine – some with a purity as high as 78% – was also found there.

Detectives went on to find encrypted phones at the homes of Hough, of East Kilbride, and McHugh, who lived in Milton.

Hough, who was previously jailed for four years for cocaine dealing in 2005, told officers: "I'm not giving any password or pin code. No comment."

However, experts managed to examine the devices, revealing a series of damning messages.

As well as the 'shotguns' text sent by Hough, these included many photos of "significant quantities" of drugs sent by McHugh.

Miss Dalziel said: "There was frequent daily communication between the parties, with Hough issuing many of the instructions relating to a wide variety of tasks.

"More than 50 messages a day were exchanged at times."

Cocaine was also referred to using designer names such as Gucci.

But, on April 2 last year, a message revealed baby-sitting had got in the way of McHugh's criminal activities.

He stated: "Mate, lab defo not happening tonight. She's causing it and I've got weans now. Lol."

Hough also sent a photo of firearms to McHugh.

Morrison, 37, pled guilty to being concerned in the supply of etizolam. His DNA was found on drug-related equipment at the Johnstone lab.

A fourth man – 28-year-old James Dalziel – admitted charges of being concerned in the supply of heroin and cocaine after a raid at another flat in Milton.

Dalziel was remanded in custody, while Morrison had bail continued.

All four men will be sentenced next month.