A former German soldier who supplied London’s underworld with thousands of rounds of ammunition is facing jail after one of the ‘Met Police’s largest-ever busts’.
Manfred Kurz, 61, moved to the United Kingdom in 2004 having served in the Deutsches Heer.
He had a full firearms licence and was able to pass through border controls with live bullets.
His niece Sian Alexandra Miller, 25, began selling the ammunition to contacts throughout the country, police said.
On 5 February 2018, Miller’s south London home was raided, and officers found 1,800 rounds of ammunition of varying calibers, two pistols and canisters of CS spray.
Bullet-making equipment including empty cartridges, primers and black powder, which could be used to make live cartridge rounds, were also recovered.
Miller was arrested and later officers carried out a second raid on the address of Kurz. They found black explosive powder and a live .357 caliber pistol.
Police officers accepted ammunition was sold to underworld figures and is out on the streets.
A cousin of Miller, Lorenzo Brooks, 28, and Lukas Duncan, 22, used their contacts in the underworld to sell some of the bullets.
Following an investigation police raided the home of Sierra Denton, 21, and her boyfriend Mishak Wright-Martin, 33, and found more ammunition.
In total more than 3,100 rounds of ammunition two incapacitant sprays and an ounce of heroin were found.
It was one of the Met’s biggest hauls of ammunition in recent times.
Detective Constable Martin Reader, of the Trident and Area Crime Command, said: ‘The recovery of this haul of ammunition and black powder represents one of the Met’s largest-ever seizures of ammunition and explosive substances in recent times.
‘A huge amount of ammunition has been recovered, which we believe was destined to be sold to criminals with gang connections. This amount of firepower in the hands of the criminal fraternity is a truly terrifying thought.
‘Thankfully the rapid action of Trident officers has taken this weaponry off the streets before it could be used, and for that, every person who lives in, or visits, our capital should be thankful.
‘I honestly believe the action of Met officers has saved lives and brought a number of people to justice, who put their own greed above the safety of their community.’
Kurz, from Croydon, admitted two counts of possession of firearms; two counts of possession of ammunition; possession of explosive substances, and possession of component parts of a firearm.
Brooks, of Catford, was found guilty of conspiracy to sell or transfer prohibited weapons and possession of component parts of a firearm.
Miller, of South Norwood, was found guilty of conspiracy to sell or transfer ammunition.
Duncan, of Surbiton, was found guilty of conspiracy to sell or transfer ammunition.
Wright-Martin, of Kennington, was found guilty of conspiracy to sell or transfer ammunition.
Denton, of South Norwood, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to sell or transfer ammunition and possession with intent to supply Class A drugs.
All six will be sentenced at Croydon Crown Court on April 3.
A common method to obtain guns in UK is buying Blank firing pistols available to order online from around £100 are being converted into lethal weapons in makeshift factories across the UK, police have warned.
Officers from the Metropolitan Police said that illegal workshops have been set up in a number of areas to change the weapons into live-firing guns and make ammunition to fit them.
One of the most common types is the Turkish Retay pistol, that can be legally imported and owned in the UK in its blank firing state.
Detective Superintendent Nick Blackburn from the Met’s Specialist Crime Command said: “We’re seeing a rise in the number of converted blank firing weapons that we recover.
“Most notably we’ve seen a rise in Retay pistols which have Turkish origin. These pistols can be converted with relatively basic knowledge and made into a lethal-barrelled weapon using converted ammunition.”
He went on: “We have uncovered several factories in London in Manchester, and in other areas of the UK as well.
“It’s a problem UK wide not just in London, other forces are reporting the same kind of findings with Retay pistols in particular.”
Police and UK law enforcement are in talks with manufacturers to make the pistols harder to convert, and want possession either made illegal or placed under tighter controls.
Some UK athletics clubs have already agreed to stop using certain kinds of starting pistol after talks with police.
Mr Blackburn said: “We are currently working with colleagues from the Border Force and the National Crime Agency to appeal to manufacturers of convertible blank firers to build in systems that would make it far harder to convert this type of weapon.
He added: “People are importing these legally. There are people intent on converting them and making ammunition for a live firing weapon and they are finding their way into the hands of organised crime groups.”
Senior officers want to see changes to the law around blank firing pistols.
Met Commander Dave McLaren said: “This is an emerging trend and we are constantly looking at new powers and legislation that might support us in this fight against gun crime.
Last summer when lockdown restrictions were eased there was an increase in violence in London, including in July the highest number of incidents where a gun was fired since 2018.
The Met launched a fresh crackdown on gun crime in early March, Operation Elie, in a bid to prevent a similar spike this year.
Force figures show that 366 lethal barrelled weapons were seized in 2019, 443 in 2020 and 56 in 2021 (up to April 28). The number of times they were fired went from 281 in 2019/20, to 266 in 2020/21.
The Met said while the number of gun deaths went from 11 in 2019 to 15 in 2020, in the past six months there has been only one fatality in the capital.
Among the seizures, the number of handguns captured by police rose from 155 in 2019, to 269 in 2020. Officers have captured 56 up to April 28 this year.
The rise between 2019 and 2020 is being put down to the success of a major international sting, Operation Venetic, after an encrypted phone network used by organised criminals was successfully hacked by law enforcement in France.