1,534 firearms seized in international operation against illegal trade

In an international operation coordinated by Europol, in a law enforcement initiative targeting the illegal arms trade, a total of 1,534 firearms have been seized. Some of these firearms had been tampered with, such as some detonator or blank firing pistols, which have become a weapon of choice for criminals because they can easily be converted to discharge live ammunition. Such a firearm is believed to have been used to kill the Dutch reporter in Amsterdam in July last year.

This operation, known as Conversus, was led by the Romanian National Police (Poliția Română) within the framework of the European Multidisciplinary Platform Against Criminal Threats (EMPACT). It concentrated on an action week coordinated by Europol between 13-17 December 2021 and involved the police forces of 24 countries, alongside Eurojust and the European Commission.

These are the results of the operation:

  • House searches conducted: 260
  • Weapons seized: 1,534
  • Ammunition seized: 17,464
  • Pyrotechnics seized: 6,550 kg

Until recently, most of the weapons seized in Europe were imported into the European Union from Turkey. Since then, the Turkish authorities have changed their legislation to address this threat. Once in the EU, these firearms are usually purchased cheaply from legal markets, before being illegally trafficked to other countries where a permit is required to acquire, import and possess such firearms.

Europol’s action week was preceded by operational work at the beginning of the year to identify the buyers and dealers involved in this illegal trade. The Romanian Police, together with its counterparts in Bulgaria and North Macedonia, collected data on the sellers which was then analysed by Europol to identify buyers and suspicious transactions.

The following countries participated in this coordinated action: Romania, Bulgaria, Portugal, Belgium, Serbia, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Sweden, Germany, Denmark, Estonia, Montenegro, Greece, Spain, France, Finland, Hungary, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Latvia, Netherlands, Poland, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Switzerland, Norway, North Macedonia, Ukraine and Kosovo*.

In 2017 the European Council decided to continue the EU Policy Cycle for the 2018-2021 period. It aims to address the most significant threats posed by organised and serious international crime to the EU. This is achieved by improving and strengthening cooperation between the relevant services of EU member states, institutions and agencies, as well as non-EU countries and organisations, including the private sector where relevant. There are currently ten EMPACT priorities. As of 2022, the mechanism becomes permanent under the name EMPACT 2022+.

* This designation is without prejudice to positions on status and is in line with UNSCR 1244/99 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo declaration of independence.


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