European Authorities Crack Down on Arms Traffickers

Police in Europe cracked down on the illegal arms trade across the continent in two separate operations that saw 18 arrests, dozens of objects raided, nearly 200 firearms and millions in assets seized across the continent.  

Alarm and signal weapons are generally non-lethal facsimiles of popular firearms, but can be converted into lethal weapons. (Source: Europol)Alarm and signal weapons are generally non-lethal facsimiles of popular firearms, but can be converted into lethal weapons. (Source: Europol)Spanish authorities arrested seven suspects, seized 18 properties worth about 10 million euro (US$11.8 million) and froze over 50 financial products from a large organised crime group that transported armements as large as tanks across the Mediteranean, and even once managed to break a compatriot out of a Greek prison.  

“The criminal network, made up of Latvian, Spanish and Ukrainian members, illegally transported Russian weapons and explosives in commercial ships from Ukraine mainly to conflict zones in North Africa and the Middle East, subject to international embargoes,” Europol said in a statement.

To be able to use their ill-gotten gains, they also established a complex money laundering scheme where their funds were filtered through investments in multiple tax havens before returning to Spain. 

Their illegal activities would likely have continued unnoticed had cracks not started to show in the group’s security and had a dispute not broken out between the leadership.

Meanwhile, police raided 81 houses in Romania, Albania, Greece and Portugal as part of Operation Bosphorus that targeted so-called “alarm and signal” weapons made in Turkey and trafficked into Europe through Bulgaria, Europol said on Monday.

Alarm and signal weapons are generally non-lethal facsimiles of popular firearms, designed to fire blanks. However, according to Europol, they are popular with European criminals, because they are cheaper to manufacture and can easily be converted into a lethal firearm. 

During this operation authorities arrested 11 suspects, seized 191 firearms and 3,714 cartridges of ammunition, small quantities of drugs and unstamped cigarettes packs, false IDs, a vehicle and 164 pieces of pyrotechnics.