It is a joint operation of three years of investigation with the National Crime Agency (NCA) of the United Kingdom, Europol and police from eight other countries
Many of those arrested are linked to extremist groups, criminal organizations or youth gangs with extensive police records.
The Civil Guard has carried out a macro operation against illegal international arms trafficking in an action with the National Crime Agency (NCA) of the United Kingdom, Europol and police from eight other countries that has left more than 760 weapons seized and 80 people arrested.
This operation called Diana-Vizardlike is part of the fight against arms trafficking networks that feed criminal or terrorist organizations. It began in 2019 when agents of the Information Service of the Civil Guard and the British NCA detected numerous criminals who were supplying illegal weapons in the European market, including the Spanish one.
To obtain firearms, they acquired alarm or signal weapons, commonly known as detonators or blanks, through the internet in authorized establishments and online platforms. Subsequently, they were transformed into lethal weapons capable of firing live ammunition and projectiles.
These weapons were obtained by people from different countries of the European Union, mostly British, using fictitious identities, false addresses or cloned virtual means of payment.
These types of weapons are especially worrying in countries like the United Kingdom, where more than 40% of the firearms involved in criminal acts are originally non-lethal weapons, such as detonating weapons. They are manufactured abroad and are later modified or reactivated into real firearms and used in violent acts, such as the 445 shootings with 23 fatalities registered in that country last year.
Actions of the Information Service
Once this practice of transforming weapons was detected more than three years ago, the Civil Guard Information Service has monitored and analyzed almost 2,000 arms sales to foreign citizens. Once the suspicious purchases were detected, they were reported to Europol and the police of the countries where the illegal buyers resided.
The intelligence obtained during these years of investigation has led to the execution of more than 20 European investigation orders and international letters rogatory with 540 international exchanges of information. During this time, 150 deliveries and searches have been made in the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Portugal, Sweden, Italy, Switzerland, Greece, Belgium or Romania, which has allowed the seizure of more than 760 firearms and the arrest of 80 people.
In addition to weapons, the searches have also seized ammunition, chemical precursors that can be used as explosives, detonators, silencers, or machinery to manipulate and transform weapons.
Of these seized weapons, many of them had already been manipulated and transformed into lethal and introduced into the criminal circuit. Some were in the hands of dangerous criminals with extensive criminal histories linked to organized crime, drug trafficking, violent robberies, youth gangs, far-right groups or sexual offenders.
Coordinated work with the British NCA
Through operational and coordinated work, the Civil Guard and the British NCA have managed to seize 703 weapons and arrest 74 people in the United Kingdom, highlighting some actions:
– Among them, several cases in which the buyers of the weapons were being investigated for their links to violent extremism or as suspects of terrorist activities. In other cases, the detainees were linked to drug trafficking and even to possession of explosives.
– In October 2019 in London, a 31-year-old man was arrested for seizing several modified firearms imported from Spain. This person was dedicated to selling these weapons to third parties, being sentenced to 11 years in prison. Subsequent investigations led to the arrest of six other people who had bought weapons from this convicted person, one of whom seized 29 firearms, including rifles and submachine guns considered weapons of war.
-Another case was in May 2021 where a 32-year-old person was seized with 26 firearms, explosives, ammunition and false police plates, for which he was also sentenced to 11 years in prison.
– In April 2020, a 59-year-old man was arrested who, in addition to his firearms, was seized with military and chemical hand grenades that had to be deactivated by British Army bomb disposal experts.