In this case, North Carolina.
A former US Marine, Steven Greenoe, bought weapons from American gun shops and hid the parts in his luggage and smuggled them to the UK. The prosecuting barrister, Neil Flewitt QC, said the undercover officers paid about £3,600 per gun. He said: "By way of comparison, Steven Greenoe paid approximately £300 for each gun...It follows, therefore, that smuggling guns out of the US to sell to criminals in the UK is an extremely profitable trade."
Mr Flewitt said guns forensically linked to Greenoe were discovered as part of Operation Newhaven on 25 February 2010, when covert police officers in Liverpool paid £10,800 for three Glock handguns. British police said the guns exchanged hands on the UK black market for as much as £5,000 each. Additionally, Greenoe attracted the attention of US authorities.
US prosecutors say Greenoe legally purchased firearms in the US, then illegally transported to the UK, an arsenal of weapons: dozens of Glock 9mm pistols, dozens of Ruger pistols and pistols of other makes. Federal Transportation Security Agents arrested him in July at Raleigh-Durham International Airport, in North Carolina, after finding ammunition and disassembled pistols in his luggage as he was about to board a flight to New York. Documents posted in US courts have revealed that US officials had questioned Greenoe on another occasion about dismantled guns in his luggage on a flight to Atlanta, but he talked his way on to the flight, before travelling on to Manchester.
He said that the he was a firearms salesman and that the guns were not in working order and that the disassembled and disguised firearm components in his luggage were in fact "inert and non-working" engineering samples.
US authorities carried out undercover surveillance of Greenoe and identified 15 separate dates on which 81 firearms were purchased by him or on his behalf. Officers witnessed him dumping the boxes that held the guns and test-fired rounds which come with each weapon. These rounds were forensically matched to firearms used by UK criminals.
The arrest of Steven Greenoe for allegedly shipping handguns into the UK illegally received little press in America. After all, weapons sold in the US frequently find their way on to the black market. And the number of weapons, including assault rifles, that cross the border into Mexico each year are thought to number in the many tens of thousands. A few dozen handguns disappearing into the UK's underworld look paltry by comparison.
Detective Chief Superintendent (DCS) Simon Leach, of Lancashire Police, said his force was leading a criminal investigation into the activities of Mr Greenoe, in conjunction with the one under way in the US. "It is essential that as part of this ongoing investigation that we continue to trace all the weapons that have not yet been recovered and therefore we would appeal to anyone who may have any information that could assist the investigation to come forward and contact police in confidence," he said.
Counter-terrorism officials were also amazed and concerned by the security breach at a time when they have warned that terrorist cells in the UK could be trying to buy guns. Former Scotland Yard counter-terrorism chief Andy Hayman said details of the case were "genuinely shocking". Writing in The Times, he said: "This makes a mockery of the stringent checks we all endure at US airports, such as removing our shoes and belts, having our toothpaste confiscated and all the other irritants...Steven Greenoe's guns could just have easily been bombs."
The real issue is that there is a lot of money to be made selling guns on the black market. This case demonstrates that at least a 10x profit can be made on firearms smuggled to the UK. Of course, the risk is also significant when one is caught. Greenoe has yet to be sentenced in the US but faces up to 30 years in prison and a $1m (£610,000) fine. Does the profit outweigh the risk?
Greenoe thought it was.
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