A total of 1,534 firearms have been seized in an international law enforcement operation targeting the illegal trade of converted alarm and signal weapons. These blank firing pistols have become a weapon of choice for criminals as they can easily be converted to discharge live ammunition. A weapon like one of the firearms seized by Europol is believed to have been used to kill the Dutch crime reporter shot in Amsterdam in July of last year.
This operation, known as Conversus, was led by the Romanian National Police (Poliția Română) in the framework of the European Multidisciplinary Platform Against Criminal Threats (EMPACT). It focused around an action week coordinated by Europol between 13-17 December 2021 and involved law enforcement from 24 countries, alongside Eurojust and the European Commission.
During the operation, there were more than 260 house searches conducted with 1,534 firearms seized by Europol. More than 17,000 pieces of ammunition and 6,500kg of pyrotechnics were also recovered during the work.
Until recently, most of the blank firing weapons seized in Europe were imported into the EU from Turkey. The Turkish authorities have since changed their legislation to address this threat. Once in the EU, these weapons are typically purchased for a low price from legal markets, before being illegally trafficked to other countries where a permit is required to acquire, import and possess such a firearm.
The action week was preceded by operational upstream work earlier in the year to identify the buyers and dealers involved in this illegal trade. The Romanian National Police, together with its Bulgarian and North Macedonian counterparts, collected data on the sellers which was then analysed by Europol to pin down buyers and suspicious transactions.
The following countries took part in this coordinated action: Romania, Bulgaria, Belgium, Cyprus, Czechia, Germany, Denmark, Estonia, Greece, Spain, France, Finland, Croatia, Hungary, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Latvia, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Sweden, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Switzerland, Norway, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia, Ukraine and Kosovo.
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