Since January 12, the Spanish National Police located in Madrid, Bilbao, Valencia and Gerona, along with Europol conducted a nationwide operation to crackdown on the illicit distribution and acquisition of firearms.
Over the past few weeks, investigators of Europol, the European Union (EU)’s law enforcement agency and the Spanish police followed various leads to track down a criminal group that had been selling firearms in a sporting goods store to individuals and large-scale organization.
After obtaining a warrant to search six houses in Bilbao, Cantabria and Geronia, investigators discovered that five individuals were leading the illicit firearms distribution operation which oversaw repairment of firearms, acquisition of weapons such as rifles, anti-aerial machine guns and hand guns and other services that included activating unused or deactivated firearms by replacing dysfunctional components.
“The crime group sold deactivated firearms which did not comply with the existing deactivation standards and life firing firearms in Spain and other European countries. A sizeable amount of these firearms were assault rifles and hand guns, but there were also other weapons such as anti-aerial machine guns. The suspects also sold essential parts and components with the aim of reactivating deactivated firearms.” said Europol.
The criminal group purchased a massive collection of firearms in auctions and from the darknet, to ensure the anonymity of the group and its operation.
Europol and other police departments in Europe such as the Slovenian National Police have been conducting a continent-wide investigation since the crackdown of a darknet-involving case in December of 2016, in which investigators found that two vendors were selling lethal weapons and explosives to individuals all across Europe through the dark web.
In this particular operation, vendors received orders and payments in bitcoin, then shipped weapons across Europe via postal mail, disguising lethal weapons as ordinary packages. After the closure of the Slovenian darknet firearms case, virtually every European law enforcement agency has been looking into the usage of darknet marketplaces in distributing firearms.
Currently, Europol investigators are examining the potential connection between the Spanish criminal group’s illicit firearms operation with terrorist groups in the EU. If investigators find evidences to prove the operation’s association with a terrorist organization, the six individuals alleged for running their firearms distribution center will be faced with harsh legal charges.
During the operation, more than 10,000 firearms were seized and 80,000 euros in cash was confiscated from the group.