Portuguese authorities expressed their concern over the sale of transformed alarm weapons on the internet. According to the police report, citizens in Portugal search mostly for those of Turkish origin.
Transformed alarm firearms, which are illegal to be sold or possessed, can be easily acquired on the internet, and are one of the biggest concerns of the Polícia de Segurança Pública (PSP; Public Security Police, the civil preventive police force of Portugal), as an increasing number of criminal groups are using them.
From 2014 until the end of the first quarter of this year, the PSP seized 6,870 weapons of this type, according to official data from the Department of Arms and Explosives (DAE) and what the police provided to the media. These firearms are mostly alarm guns that were handed over to the DAE by other security forces and district police commands since they were confiscated in criminal prevention operations, or in criminal proceedings. The most frequent ones are the Reck, Tanfoglio, Rohner and Star models.
It is possible to order one, paying between 100 and 200 euros, on a site registered in Turkey, where such business is legal. Criminals purchase the guns from Turkey, ship them into Portugal, where they transform them making genuine and low-cost firearm for themselves. Many of these weapons fall into the hands of criminal groups and others to people who have been unable or unwilling to obtain a license to use and carry a defense weapon. In the post-attacks in Paris (in November 2015, which caused more than 180 deaths), control of illegal weapons circulating in European black markets has become a priority for law enforcement authorities.
“The most sought after on the internet are the Zoraki and Ekol brand alarm guns of Turkish origin, because they are easily transformed and because they are of very good quality, there are several models Zoraki 925, 914, 917, etc. On YouTube they teach how to transform such weapons, “explained Mayor Pedro Moura, commander of the Department of Arms and Explosives of the PSP in Lisbon. “As some countries have begun to restrict access to alarm guns – as was the case in Slovakia – the mode of operation of the traffickers has evolved into the 9mm Flobert gauge air pressure guns, which has been increasingly sought.”
Seven of the arms used by the Saïd brothers and Chérif Kouachi in the Paris attacks in January 2015 (the attack on the headquarters of the Charlie Hebdo newspaper, in which 13 people died) originated from Slovakia, where they were legally sold and neutralized (the weapons could only shoot blank cartridges).
Portuguese law enforcement authorities also identified the problem of the illicit sale of firearms on dark net marketplaces and forums.
“As a serious security threat and in order to combat the illicit traffic in weapons through the internet, Europol has since 2013 carried out a number of operational actions, ranging from the training of police officers to cyber patrolling, especially in sales on the so-called darknet, or the black market of the internet, “Moura said. “Officials at the PSP’s Department of Weapons and Explosives are developing several operational actions to control sales on the net and there have even been several seizures, but it’s still premature to advance figures because these actions are not over yet.”
Moura added that “sales are being controlled by the police operations directed at express companies” since the weapons purchased on the internet are then transported by companies that offer express shipping or courier service. In this area, he explained, there has been a great collaboration with the customs authorities, and in Portuguese cases, with the participation of the Tax Authority.
The Weapons Act imposes rules for the electronic commerce of arms, ammunition, and accessories, except those of class A. Class A firearms include war gauges, automatic weapons, concealed, transformed, and modified firearms, among others.
In 2016, the PSP carried out 323 operations under the Weapons Law, detained 397 people and seized 108 firearms, 103 concealed weapons, and 221 other firearms. Operations fell by almost half (586) compared to 2015, but a source in the PSP stated that combating arms trafficking remains a priority, particularly for criminal investigators of the police.