Three men pleaded guilty to the possession of a massive storage of ammunition, firearms and paraphernalia on November 2, 2016. This week, brothers Abdullah Ali and Adam Ali, and 21-year-old Roman Nikolajevs were sentenced to 15 years in prison for the illegal possession of firearms and illicit activities on the dark web.
In early 2015, the Ali brothers initially approached traders on the dark web and various darknet marketplaces to purchase deactivated pistols and rifles. Upon the acquisition of disabled firearms, the two men activated them, building a large cache of guns and gathering weapons such as a loaded Llama 9mm handgun.
When local police arrested the two brothers on May 2, 2015, they found a deactivated Hungarian FEG 9mm pistol, AK 47 assault rifle components, 54 rounds of ammunition, gunpowder chemicals potassium nitrate and sulphur and a bullet-proof vest. Investigators seized devices found within the home of the two brothers and analyzed data stored in USB sticks, hard drives, computers and disks. It was discovered that the brothers obtained an in-depth guide which detailed explained the process of activating and deactivating guns and building large-scale explosives.
Based on the evidence gathered by local police and investigators, the court ruled the Ali brothers guilty of possession of weaponry. The local police and prosecutors aggressively pushed the case due to the intent of the Ali brothers to create explosives using potassium nitrate and sulphur. Local investigators immediately pursued the possibility of involvement of the two brothers in terrorist initiatives and organizations.
Commander Dean Haydon, of the Counter Terrorism Command, said:
These men had a working firearm and ammunition which, in the wrong hands, could have endangered lives. Counter terrorism officers have ensured that these firearms, components and gunpowder chemicals are now safely off our streets and that the men have been brought to the courts to face justice.
The 21-year-old Nikolajevs was arrested 20 days after the detention of the Ali brothers. During the initial investigation phase, detectives linked a connection between Adam Ali and Nikolajevs in regard to the testing of the 9mm Llama handgun. Local police immediately arrested Nikolajevs upon the confirmation of his involvement in assisting the two brothers in obtaining a large storage of firearms.
In total, the three men received 15 years in prison, each serving a five-year sentence. Although Nikolajevs did not initiate the activity and trades on the dark web, due to this involvement with the Ali brothers, the court decided to sentence Nikolajevs to five years in prison.
On March 30, DeepDotWeb reported that Europe officially tightened firearms regulations across the continent. The approval of the revised European Union (EU) firearms directive meant that the policies and regulations on deactivated firearms became significantly more strict and thorough. At the time, Vicky Ford, the chair of the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection, stated:
“Over the past 18 months I and colleagues across this Parliament have worked with many different stakeholders, as well as law enforcement authorities, proof houses and legal experts, in order to protect the interests of legitimate owners whilst also addressing the security issues. The Parliament text has made many significant improvements. The changes that we have now agreed will close the loophole and be an important contribution to our security, whilst also respecting the rights of legal owners.”
The sentencing of the three men correlated with the tightening of the EU firearms directive and regulatory frameworks. Other European countries including the UK and France plan to tighten existing laws on firearm and weaponry possession.