Two men have been charged after 79 viable firearms seized as part of a joint National Crime Agency and Metropolitan Police Service operation into the attempted importation of illegal firearms.
Investigations over a number of days indicated that an importation of firearms was imminent over the weekend. This information was shared with Border Force officers based at Coquelles, France, who were able to stop a vehicle before it entered the Channel Tunnel en-route to the UK on Saturday 1 July.
Searches of the vehicle’s trailer revealed a large cache of viable 4mm and 6mm handguns and a quantity of ammunition, all hidden in specially adapted concealments in engine blocks.
Janusz Michek (59), a Polish national, was one of seven occupants of the vehicle and arrested at the scene.
Denis Kolencukov (23), originally from the Czech Republic but living in the UK was arrested as he arrived in Dover from Dunkirk.
Both have been charged with knowingly being concerned in the fraudulent evasion of a prohibition or restriction on a prohibited weapon or ammunition, and conspiracy to possess a firearm with intent to endanger life or enable another to do so and remanded in custody.
They will appear at Uxbridge Magistrates Court at 10am today.
No further action will be taken against the other six individuals arrested in Coquelles - four women aged 58, 41, 17 and 15 and two men aged 26 and 22 -all Polish nationals.
Officers from the joint NCA-Metropolitan Police Organised Crime Partnership (OCP) searched an address in Slough, Berkshire with support from Thames Valley Police and enquiries are ongoing.
Graham Gardner, NCA Deputy Director of investigations, said:
“This joint operation has resulted in a large number of viable firearms being taken out of circulation before they could reach the UK. Whilst we are in the early stages of our investigation, I believe these weapons were intended for criminal use in either London or across the UK and it goes without saying the risk they would have posed to the public.
“Our recent threat assessment highlights that handguns are still commonly favoured by some criminal groups in the UK. They may not be the largest firearm, but they are easily concealable and lethal in the hands of anyone prepared to use them.
“Firearms related crime across the UK poses a significant threat to the public and the NCA are working with partners in the UK and around the world to combat this threat. The involvement of multiple agencies in this operation demonstrates the collective commitment to keeping people safe and maintaining the relative rarity of gun crime in the UK.”
Detective Chief Superintendent Michael Gallagher, the Metropolitan Police Service Organised Crime Partnership said:
"This joint operation highlights how we can work effectively with other agencies to combat serious and organised crime. I have no doubt that a number of these weapons were destined for the streets of London, where they would have caused misery and unspeakable damage to the community."
"The seizure of these illegal firearms shows what can be achieved through cross-agency collaboration and we will continue to work together to protect communities, ensuring that we disrupt criminal groups from having access to these weapons."
Members of the public with possible information on illegal firearms can report it to their local police force, or anonymously to CrimeStoppers online or by calling 0800 555 111.