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Wolverhampton teen convicted of importing explosives from the dark web

Gurtej Singh Randhawa, from Wolverhampton, attempted to buy a Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Device from the darknet, which would then be sent to him.

Randhawa, a former pupil at Wolverhampton Grammar school, faces a jail term after he was found guilty of maliciously possessing an explosive substance with intent to endanger life or cause serious damage. He was found guilty on October 6, after a trial at Birmingham Crown court.

Randhawa who had previously pleaded guilty to attempting to import explosives, was remanded into custody and will be sentenced on January 12.

The 19-year old was arrested in May 2017 after he took a delivery he thought was a remote-detonated explosive device. National Crime Agency (NCA) officers replaced the package with a dummy device before allowing it to be delivered to the address provided by Randhawa. The officers observed him testing the device and arrested him on suspicion of attempting to possess an explosive substance with intent to cause an explosion likely to endanger life. Two women aged 45 and 18 were arrested at the same time but have since been released without charge.

Tim Gregory, from the NCAs armed operations unit said; “the explosive device Randhawa sought to purchase online had the potential to cause serious damage and kill many people if he had been successful in using it.

“He was not involved in an organized crime group or linked to terrorism, but is clearly an individual who poses a significant risk to the community.

“Identifying people like Randhawa who seek to access weapons is a priority for the NCA and we will not stop in our efforts to make sure they are arrested and held accountable for their actions.’’

Successfully acquiring weapons from the dark web has a lot of challenges including;

Some of the vendors are maybe scammers and are only after making easy money, while others are law enforcement posing as arm dealers in an effort to bust buyers placing orders with them. The other big challenge is on successful delivery of the weapons ordered without interception by law enforcement leading to subsequent arrest of the buyer as in the case of Randhawa.

Weapons trade in the dark web has proven to be a great challenge to security. Actual crimes have been committed by criminals who were able to successfully purchase weapons off the dark web. A perfect example of a crime committed using weapons from the dark web is the 2016 Munich attack, which resulted in 10 deaths including that of the perpetrator, while 36 more were injured.

A recent study by RAND Europe aimed at identifying the role played by the dark web in fueling weapons trade, has shown that the dark web provides a network that enables the circulation of weapons already on the black market, as well as a potential source of diversion for legally owned weapons.

Findings from the study have shown that;

The dark web is increasing the availability of better performing weapons at a lower or similar price as what would be available on the streets of the real black market. Among the weapons listed, firearm listings are the most common listings on the dark web marketplaces; other weapons listed include ammunitions arms-related digital products and explosives. Pistols are the most commonly listed firearm followed by rifles and sub-machine guns. The arms trade has an overall value of up to $80,000 USD per month, with up to 136 sales, based only on 12 marketplaces analyzed in the study.

Arms-related digital products traded in the dark web, act as guides that provide tutorials for a wide range of illegal actions, ranging from conversion of replica guns into live weapons, to the full manufacture of home-made guns and explosives, and also include models that can be turned into fully working firearms through 3D printing.

The dark web provides a platform for individuals or small groups to obtain weapons and ammunition, while assuring the buyers of their anonymity.

Europe represents the largest market for arms trade on the dark web, generating revenues that are about five times higher than the US.

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