Europol and the Ljubljana Police Directorate (Policijska uprava Ljubljana or LPD) recently announced the arrest of two darknet weapons vendors. Europol’s Focal Point Firearms unit aided the LPD in identifying two Slovenian nationals suspected of distributing automatic weapons via the darknet. The two, until their December 13 arrest also sold grenades, ammunition, knives, and handguns. They received 11 counts of illicit manufacturing and trafficking of weapons or explosives.
The LPD announced that “by performing classical and covert investigative measures,” they found two men in Ljubljana—both selling on the darknet. The first, a 39-year-old Slovenian citizen, appeared on the police’s radar first; law enforcement discovered a darknet weapons vendor who shipped from Slovenia. After they had begun investigating the 39-year-old, they found an accomplice; a 33-year-old Slovenian citizen became part of the investigation.
Investigators, during the investigation, noted the sale of automatic rifles, ammunition, grenades, pistols, and tasers. The automatic rifles included the Zastava AP M70—a rifle based on the AK-47 and AKM units—and the Zagi M-91, a “homemade” gun. They sold 400 rounds of ammunition for various caliber weapons. The pistols sold, according to the police, were mainly the Walther P99. During the execution of the search warrant, officers found additional illegal weapon-related material.
They reported two hand grenades of the explosive category—one M75 and one M50; five smoke grenades; a wide assortment of projectile pieces such as fuses and lights; 2,500 bullets of varying caliber, including armor piercing, explosive, and hollow tips; tasers; scopes; and several daggers.
Police officers worked alongside Europol and unmentioned foreign partners in the case. And the LPD sets Europol apart as the primary source of assistance in the case. This region is known as a prime location for the illegal smuggling of anything from weapons to drugs.
From the LPD’s press release regarding the excellent location Slovenia provides:
In the field of classical arms smuggling while its geostrategic position characterizes Slovenia, as it is called Balkan route, according to which criminal gangs smuggle several different goods, namely, weapons, explosives, illegal drugs and the people of the Western Balkans countries in European Union countries. Depending on the specific cases of smuggling trends and operational findings over the past few years, we can conclude that the former Republic of Yugoslavia is one of the primary sources of weapons, explosives, and improvised explosive devices. Slovenia in the present cases, acting primarily as a transit country, and only to a limited extent as a target.
After the vendor duo received payment, they would package the weapon (or ammunition) in a disguisable manner. They shipped to France, Netherlands, Sweden, United Kingdom, Italy, Norway. New York appeared as a location at the beginning of the press release but never made it to the list of EU countries (and Norway). The Europol PR made no mention of New York either so distribution to the United States may never have happened.
Through “a combination of conventional and covert investigative measures,” law enforcement received enough evidence to arrest both men. A judge at the District Court in Ljubljana distributed, to both men, 11 charges of illicit manufacturing and trafficking of weapons or explosives and one charge of counterfeiting money. He ordered that they both remain in custody until further notice.
A Slovenian official revealed that the comments online reflected that the vendors sold to foreign countries. Law enforcement exchanged this information and will continue to work with international law enforcement authorities. They hope to track down the buyers of the prohibited weapons.
Europol’s press release ends with a veiled threat: “Arrests such as these signal the start of the law enforcement community’s ability to access the darkweb and collate data for prosecution, proving that the inflated sense of anonymity and security created by the Internet can work to law enforcement’s benefit.