The gun run to Britain: How illegal firearms fuelling bloodshed on UK’s streets are smuggled into the country from warehouses across Eastern EuropeEXCLUSIVE: Scores of reactivated guns are being brought to Britain from Eastern Europe by criminal network Once in circulation in the UK, a single gun can claim a number of lives, sometimes over many yearsNational…
The gun run to Britain: How illegal firearms fuelling bloodshed on UK’s streets are smuggled into the country from warehouses across Eastern Europe
- EXCLUSIVE: Scores of reactivated guns are being brought to Britain from Eastern Europe by criminal network
- Once in circulation in the UK, a single gun can claim a number of lives, sometimes over many years
- National Crime Agency reveal routes taken by firearms as they attempt to crackdown on illegal importation
From the streets of Eastern Europe to the pockets of gang members in British cities, an illegal trade in firearms is supplying the UK’s increasingly violent criminals with the weapons they need to wreak havoc.
In the last five years, the annual number of recorded crimes involving firearms has risen from just over 5,000 to more than 6,600 in figures released earlier this year.
The National Crime Agency has now revealed the typical route taken by a firearm from its production in the former Soviet bloc, through ports either side of the English Channel, to the housing estates of British cities, where they claim the lives of warring gangs and innocent people caught up in the carnage.
A map from the National Crime Agency shows the typical route of the guns smuggled into Britain from Eastern Europe. The guns are typically brought in after being produced in Eastern Europe. The machine guns pictured at stage 1 on this map, which were later intercepted in the UK, were produced in Slovakia
Blank-firing weapons and deactivated or modified weapons can be bought legally in EU countries. Police recently uncovered Scorpian machine guns which had been purchased legally by criminals in Slovakia.
Criminal gangs then use their contacts to then get the weapons reactivated, often in other eastern European countries, before they are smuggled into Britain.
The National Crime Agency say the Netherlands is a hub for the illegal firearms trade, with Dutch gangs often selling weapons on to British criminals.
From Holland, the guns are then smuggled into the UK, either in private boats crossing the channel at night or concealed in cars or lorries driving through Dover or other ports.
Even British border officials have been found to be behind the trade.
In November, corrupt border guard Simon Pellett was jailed after he tried to smuggle three holdalls containing eight pistols, two revolvers and a large quantity of ammunition in the back of a rented van.
These deactivated Scorpian machine guns and Czech VZ-58 assault rifles were purchases legally in Slovakia by a British gang
The most common type of firearm seized in the UK are Baikal pistols which have been converted from blank-firing weapons
Criminals have found a number of ways of getting guns across the channel. This one was hidden in a car dashboard
Once inside the UK, the guns are sold on to criminal gangs, often ending up in the hands of young drug gangs in big cities like London, Manchester or Sheffield.
Earlier this month, police in Birmingham revealed they had seen nine reported shootings in as many weeks – all of which in the same area and believed to be from competing drugs gangs.
The guns that do get into the UK after used in more than one crime.
One weapon, dubbed ‘Gun No 6’, is said to be Britain’s deadlist weapon after it to used to take three lives and was linked to at least 11 shootings in six years.
After being brought to Britain, it was first used in a Birmingham nightclub on February 23 2003 in a feud between the Johnson Crew gang and their rivals, the Burger Bar Boys.
It went to claim the lives of nightclub bouncer Ishfaq Ahmed in 2004, Kemar Whittaker in 2005 and postmaster’s son Craig Hodson-Walker in 2009.
This imported Czech gun, capable of being turned into a lethal weapon, was seized in the West Midlands in November
Other guns are simply posted into the UK, disguised as other items. This weapons was hidden inside the radio
Bouncer Ishfaq Ahmed and postmaster’s son Craig Hodson-Walker were shot dead by the same gun in completely separate incidents, five years apart, showing how one gun which crosses the border can claim many lives
The weapon is an example of how just one gun being sold on by hitmen and gangs over a number years, can claiming an ever-rising toll.
Yet the trade continues. In November, West Midlands police seized a freshly-imported pistol from the Czech Republic. It was the 114th firearm seized by the force this year.
The National Crime Agency said: ‘A wide variety of such criminal groups operate throughout the UK, exercising varying degrees of discipline and sophistication, with many methods of obtaining, storing, sharing and using firearms.
‘In general, the victims of firearms crime in the UK are other criminals, who are targeted in revenge, to enhance respect and to collect debts owed.
‘Firearms are obtained through criminal networks, cultural connections and from criminal armourers who supply across groups.’
The Eastern European guns flooding into Britain
A series of cases in recent weeks have highlighted the problem of imported guns flooding into Britain.
The issue led to forces around the country launching a series of raids in a bid to seize the growing number of guns being passed around between British gangs.
At least 61 firearms – including 46 handguns, five revolvers, two stun guns and a sub-machine gun – were confiscated, with many later identifie as Flobert or blank-firing weapons, bought online from sellers in eastern Europe.
Flobert guns are lethal in their original state and many of the blank-firers purchased were readily convertible to chamber live ammunition.
Though both types of weapons are illegal in the UK, they are freely available in countries across eastern Europe and can be purchased online for less than £100.
These guns were uncovered during raids by 25 police forces around the UK last month. They are easily available in Eastern Europe
This weapon and its ammunition was found in a Slovakian van being driven through the Port of Dover earlier this year
Earlier this month, Slovakian Marek Platko was jailed for 22 years for organising the importation of a semi-automatic weapon and a large quantity of ammunition into the UK.
National Crime Agency investigators were called in after Border Force officers stopped a van at Dover in April this year following a vehicle scan and a search.
The Slovakian driver, Peter Kral, aged 41, of Liverpool, claimed he had been to the Czech Republic to collect a racing buggy for his boss.
But a foam-filled concealment on the front of the van contained a Slovakian manufactured self-loading semi-automatic firearm, eight kilos of loose ammunition in a canvas bag, a further three boxes of ammunition and two magazines.
The market for such weapons among British drug dealers was illustrated by a case at Peterborough Crown Court earlier this month.
There, a local man Calvin Jackson was found with £2,800 worth of cannabis as well a pistol and firearm which were originally from the Czech Republic. He was jailed for five years.
Peterborough man Calvin Jackson was found with a stash of drugs and this pistol, originally from Czech Republic
Slovakian Marek Platko (left) organised the smuggling of an assault rifle. Aivaras Vysniauskas (centre) and Gytis Vysniauskas (right) were sentenced to a total of 25 years in prison after the haul of Russian weapons were discovered in their specially-adapted Peugeot
In October, Lithuanians Aivaras Vysniauskas, 33, and Gytis Vysniauskas, 46, were sentenced to a total of 25 years in prison after the haul of Russian weapons were discovered in their specially-adapted Peugeot.
The men, who are not related, were stopped at Dover in March 2016 with a haul containing 10 Baikal handguns, 10 silencers and more than 100 rounds of 9mm ammunition.
Police said the guns, which had their serial numbers filed off to prevent identification, could have brought death to the streets of the UK.
A search of their car revealed a purpose-built space for smuggling contraband and illegal weapons around the transmission housing.
Debbie Cook, Dover operations manager for NCA, said: ‘These lethal weapons were destined for the criminal marketplace where they would have had the potential to do untold damage.’
The Vysniauskas pair stopped at Dover where police discovered 10 Russian-made Baikal handguns (pictured) in their car
Aivaras claimed he built the hidden compartment in the car himself, after buying the Peugeot in Lithuania.
Share what you think
No comments have so far been submitted. Why not be the first to send us your thoughts, or debate this issue live on our message boards.