Despite ample evidence pointing towards German law enforcement’s enhanced ability to catch darknet firearm buyers, people keep trying to buy guns online. Some countries may not report a connection between illegal guns and the darknet. And other countries—according to a Russian forum where guns are a commonplace—have more pressing matters than hunting down gun buyers. Whatever the case may be, German police report a record number of darknet-related arrests. And, in early January, they added three more customers to the ever-growing list of darknet busts.
The Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA), in December, began investigating a 46-year-old man from Frickenhausen for showing “interest for several shotguns on the darknet.” Through both “intensive and covert investigations on the Internet,” the Federal Criminal Police Office identified two additional suspects. The secondary suspects—a 43-year-old from Reutlingen and a 51-year-old from Stuttgart—knew the primary suspect from Frickenhausen. All three, according to the police, showed an interest in firearms on the darknet and appeared as if they intended to make a purchase.
The Esslingen Criminal Police Department and Stuttgart Public Prosecutor’s Office picked up the investigation after a tip from the BKA. Covert cyber investigations, according to swp.de, revealed that the group’s primary interest involved shotguns.
On January 21, the Esslingen Criminal Police Department, aided by a special taskforce from the Department, raided the three suspects. Authorities decided to ask for special assistance based on knowledge obtained during the investigation. Most importantly, investigators learned that the 51-year-old “was known to be a sportsman.” As a known sportsman, the legally possessed several shotguns. Authorities never mentioned why they thought the 51-year-old with a reputation as an avid competition shooter required a special task force. In previous darknet busts, especially when they involved vendors, authorities took extra precautions to prevent a gunfight.
For example, in October 2016, a darknet drug dealer became the focus of a darknet drug investigation in Germany. They conducted a raid at a time the amphetamine vendor would least likely expect for the same reason:
“According to a spokesman for the prosecutor’s office, Special Task Force had been called in based on a potential firearm threat. Investigators believed the suspect to be armed and dangerous. After the raid, a police spokesman from Konstanz stated that the raid and subsequent arrest were peaceful. The suspect was detained without resistance.”
In the case against the three from Reutlingen, Frickenhausen, and Stuttgart, police similarly faced no resistance. Authorities found a cache of weapons, money, and narcotics. The 46-year-old suspect made a partial confession based on the results of the raid. Although he caused the investigation, police said that he, the primary suspect, possessed no illegal firearms. He admitted to buying and selling silencers for firearms. Officers mentioned that he too owned a license to own specific guns for sport, yet they found no weapons in his possession. They found and seized 30,000 euros and “gold and precious metals” worth an estimated 50,000 euros.
The police’s search of the 51-year-old perhaps yielded the best results. The Stuttgart Prosecutor’s Office reported finding six illegal guns, including an automatic pistol and a fully automatic shotgun. He also kept 17 legal firearms and thousands of rounds of ammunition.
Officials released no information about the 43-year-old, save for the fact that he received a temporary release from custody. The Prosecutor’s Office released the two youngest suspects “after completion of the emergency measures.” At the request of the Stuttgart Public Prosecutor, however, authorities left the 51-year-old in jail until his upcoming hearing. He faces charges related to the possession of illegal weapons, violation of the War Weapon Act, and possession of narcotics.
The case is still under investigation, according to the latest announcement.