Joint international operation sees two men charged with firearm offences

A multi-agency operation spanning two countries has resulted in two men being charged with firearm offences and a cache of weapons and gun parts being seized in Australia and the USA.

The operation began earlier this year when Victoria Police and Australian Federal Police officers identified three similar assault rifles seized during three separate investigations.

As a result of these inquiries a joint investigation was formed with the Victoria Police Armed Crime Squad, the AFP National Anti-Gangs Squad Victoria, the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Explosives (ATF), and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). The Department of Immigration and Border Protection’s Intelligence Division, Australian Border Force officers and the NSW Police Firearms Squad provided additional support. This activity was part of national Operation Athena targeting illegal firearms.

Subsequent enquiries in the USA by the ATF and HSI identified a multi-state criminal conspiracy allegedly responsible for the illegal export of automatic assault rifles and hand guns into Australia.

In late June 2016 an operation by ATF agents resulted in the interception of a consignment consisting of six fully automatic assault rifles and 96 semi-automatic handgun frames. It will be alleged these firearms were in the process of being prepared for export to the Australian syndicate. 

Earlier this week a total of 12 search warrants were conducted - eight in Victoria (Whittington, Moolap, Swan Hill, Vinifera and Castle Donnington). Four warrants in Koraleigh (NSW) were executed with the assistance of the NSW Police Firearms Squad.

During these warrants assorted firearms and firearm parts were seized, including an upper and lower frame for one assault rifle, 19 semi-automatic handgun frames with identical serial numbers, six semi-automatic handgun parts, other assorted firearm parts and 10 kilograms of ammunition.

A 63-year- old Koraleigh (NSW) man was charged with two counts of attempting to traffic prohibited firearms or firearms parts into Australia contrary to Section 11 and Section 361.2 of the Criminal Code (Cth) and four counts of importing prohibited firearms and firearms parts into Australia contrary to section 233 of the Customs Act 1901.

A 44-year- old Whittington man was charged with one count of possess an unregistered Category E Longarm under state legislation.

Concurrent to this activity in Australia, agents from the ATF and HSI are continuing their investigation to fully identify all US-based conspirators involved in this international firearm trafficking/smuggling operation, to hold them accountable for their actions.

Investigations are continuing in both countries and further arrests cannot be ruled out.

Australian law enforcement agencies would like to recognise the close assistance and co-operation provided by agents from both the ATF and HSI in the USA. Their assistance was key in identifying the Australian syndicate and also in stopping a large consignment of illegal weapons from reaching Australia.

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