Five Luton men have been found guilty of conspiring to import firearms into the UK from Eastern Europe.
Eight members of the organised crime group led by 39-year-old Muzaffer Ali stood trial over 12 weeks at Luton Crown Court.
On Monday the verdicts were returned and were as follows:
• Muzaffer Ali, 39, of Maidenhall Road – found guilty of conspiracy to import guns and ammunition and of the transfer of guns and ammunition.
• Haroon Khatab, 41, of Jasmine Road – found guilty of conspiracy to import guns and ammunition.
• Sajid Khan, 25, of 7 Manx Close – found guilty of conspiracy to import guns and ammunition and of the transfer of guns and ammunition.
• Khalid Hussain, 39, of Maidenhall Road – found guilty of conspiracy to import guns and ammunition.
• Faisal Mahmood, 20, of Maidenhall Road – Pleaded guilty during the trial of the transfer of firearms and ammunition.
• Three other defendants were found not guilty of all charges The five guilty men will be sentenced next month.
In March 2016, a stash of guns and ammunition were recovered by police after they were supplied to a criminal group based in Leicester.
A sophisticated surveillance operation proved the supply of three Hungarian FEG semi-automatic handguns and 21 rounds of ammunition by the Luton gang to the Leicester group.
Officers uncovered the fact that Ali, as head of the group, had been responsible for sourcing the weapons in the Netherlands while using other members of the group for security, to package and store firearms, collect money, and deliver the weapons to other criminal groups.
Dutch Police and the National Crime Agency were instrumental in supporting the investigation, leading to a multi-agency operation in which two members of the organised crime group were stopped at the border with the UK in Coquelles, France in May 2016.
Det Serg James Panter, who led the case, said: “This was a complex and lengthy investigation which has involved numerous defendants and items of evidence. By working jointly with our neighbouring regional crime units as well as overseas law enforcement partners we have managed to bring to justice those responsible for bringing the scourge of firearms criminality into the UK.
“The profits and consequences of gun crime have far-reaching effects in the community, not least to mention the potential loss of life which could have been caused had we not managed to intercept these overseas arms transfers.
“ERSOU is committed to stopping dangerous offenders and putting a stop to the illegal firearms trade.”