With assistance from Europol, Spain’s Guardia Civil arrested a 24-year-old firearm vendor who had sold on Alphabay, along with other darknet matters that allowed weapon listings. In 2017, he had already distributed guns to 30 buyers in 11 countries. The Guardia Civil service called him one of the biggest weapon vendors on the darknet.
The Spanish national found himself at the center of an international investigation into online weapon buyers and sellers. Europol’s investigation involved police and customs authorities from the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, Cyprus, Sweden, and Spain. More than 30 firearms were seized during the investigation, along with spare gun parts and ammunition.
Europol claimed that the vendor used Alphabay until US authorities seized the marketplace. “He was one of the largest and best known firearms vendors on the Darknet and took strict measures to avoid being identified by law enforcement,” Europol wrote in their press release.
The operation netted seven suspects, including the vendor himself. The Guardia Civil arrested the vendor and one buyer in Spain. The Zollkriminalamt (ZKA) arrested three buyers in Germany. Cyprus police and law enforcement in Sweden each arrested a buyer. Europol orchestrated the operation, but other countries aided in the investigation of arrest. The United States Homeland Security Investigations helped with the case but, as of Europol’s announcement, had not made any arrests.
In a similar method used by many vendors in Russia, the 24-year-old turned many non-lethal weapons, such as gas pistols, into fully functioning firearms. Gas pistols, such as those used in many countries with strict firearm laws, often shoot cartridges of tear gas. The guns are very similar to “real” firearms, save for heavy modifications that ensure the owner cannot easily fire live, lethal ammunition from the gun.
Law enforcement found a so-called “professional workshop” in the suspect’s garage where three reconstruction occurred. Europol said the vendor replaced the barrels and removed the serial numbers on the guns while in his workshop. In the workshop, he had also prepared the guns for shipment by concealing them in packages that would pass through security checks.
“This operation is a successful hit against one of the biggest firearms traffickers on the darknet, with his actions severely endangering the lives of others,” Europol outlined in their press release. Two gun buyers were connected to murders, although whether or not his weapons were used in those murders remained unspecified. One buyer committed suicide with a pistol purchased from the vendor.
Europol pointed to the successful collaboration between the police and customs for part of the investigation. In one scenario, the exchange of information between United Kingdom customs and law enforcement agencies led to a successful package interception(s). Europol also thanked themselves for successfully helping other countries catch buyers.