A Newtownabbey man identified, as Darren Bennet, 23, was jailed for attempting to purchase handguns from a dark web market. The law enforcement strongly believes that the suspect intended to ship the weapons to south east Antrim. During the court hearing, Bennet pleaded guilty to the offenses he was charged with, including possession and intent to distribute illegal drugs, like cocaine and marijuana.
The suspect, who is said to be from Church Road, was presented in Ballymena Magistrates Court via the help of video call from the Maghaberry Prison. During the hearing, Bennet admitted to having herbal cannabis and Diazepam which were seized by the police during the search at his home in January 2017. The police detectives also found plastic bags and weighing scales in his bedside cabinet, which the police strongly believe were used in repackaging the drugs acquired from the darknet marketplaces.
After the court hearing, the judge decided to sentence the suspect to two more months in prison for the new charges against him. According to the defence lawyer, the suspect was serving a custodial sentence, which had been given in Belfast.
During the Laganside Court hearing in Belfast, the suspect pleaded guilty to a number of criminal activities. The counts included the conspiracy to own two Glock pistols and almost twenty rounds of ammunition. The suspect also pleaded guilty to attempted possession of MDMA (3,4-methylnedioxy-methamphetamine) and cocaine. In February 2017, the court sentenced him to twenty months in prison and, in addition, he was to serve twenty-eight more months on licensed parole.
How the Investigation Went Down
Since the suspect was using the dark web to purchase illegal weapons, the police detectives went undercover and disguised themselves as potential gun vendors. The police detectives took their time to establish a convincing relationship with the suspect who was oblivious of the danger lurking in the business.
According to the prosecution lawyer at Belfast court, the police detectives had recovered some message conversations between the suspect and a co-defendant. The messages revealed that there was a plot to acquire dark web firearms.
According to the Detective Inspector with the Paramilitary Crime Task Force, who was speaking outside the Belfast court, the purchased weapons would have finally be taken to a group of paramilitaries, precisely south east Antrim UDA. The main agenda of the group is to rule over the communities with fear and war.
The Bigger Picture
The number of people purchasing illegal weapons and drugs from Northern Ireland has been on the rise in the recent past. There have even been reported cases of former police officers trying to buy weapons from dark web markets.
Earlier in October 2017, Allen Kennedy, 32, was fighting to have his five and a half year sentencing reduced after he was convicted of preventing the course of justice, drug, and weapon charges.
In October 2018, undercover police detectives unravelled a plot to acquire weapons from the dark web by two Co Antrim suspects. The two were identified as Thomas Morgan, 42, and the current suspect, Darren Bennett. The two were busted by an undercover police agent, who posed as a potential firearm vendor.
Drug traffickers also have not been spared by the detective’s operation, whereby, those using the dark web, cryptocurrencies, and postal services to smuggle drugs have been arrested. Back in 2015, two men from Belfast, who were involved in international dark web drug trafficking, were arrested and jailed for the same charges.
In the following year, 2016, a Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), identified as Allen Kennedy, 30, attempted to buy a handgun and a silencer from a dark web market. The police officer was arrested at Annadale Embankment as he tried to hand over $500 to pay for the package to the undercover police detectives. After the police arrested him and did a thorough search in his car, they found cocaine which was disguised inside drink tins.
These were just but a sample of cases in which people from Ireland attempted to buy weapons from the dark web. Due to the police intervention, a number of the attempts have been thwarted so that firearms do not fall into the wrong hands.