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22 years for Slovakian semi-automatic gun importer

A Slovakian man has been jailed for 22 years for organising the importation of a semi-automatic weapon and a large quantity of ammunition into the UK.

Marek Platko, aged 28, of Pinehurst Road, Liverpool, was found guilty after a week-long trial at Canterbury Crown Court.

National Crime Agency investigators were called in after Border Force officers stopped a van at Dover in April this year following a vehicle scan and a search.

The Slovakian driver, Peter Kral, aged 41, of Grassmere Street, Liverpool, claimed he had been to the Czech Republic to collect a racing buggy for his boss.

A foam-filled concealment on the front of the van contained a Slovakian manufactured self-loading semi-automatic firearm, eight kilos of loose ammunition in a canvas bag, a further three boxes of ammunition and two magazines.

Kral’s mobile phone also had a number of messages from Platko, including one which translated as ‘the foam is still drying up’. He was arrested and remanded into custody.

Platko arrived at Liverpool Airport from Prague two days later where he was arrested by NCA officers and remanded into custody.

Kral stood trial alongside Platko last week and was acquitted.

A Czech man, Radek Dobias, aged 38, who was living in Bootle, is also wanted for questioning in connection with the importation.

Darren Herbert from the NCA said: “The gun and ammunition seized as part of this investigation had the potential to cause untold damage had they found their way into criminal hands.

“For this reason, the criminal use of firearms is a priority threat for the NCA and wider UK law enforcement.

“The NCA works closely with Border Force as well as international partners to disrupt the flow of firearms into the UK.”

Nick Drinkal, Deputy Director of Border Force South East and Europe said:

“This was a highly sophisticated concealment in a van that had been specifically modified for smuggling purposes. This case demonstrates not only the value of the training and expertise of the Border Force officers who detected these items it also demonstrates the commitment and dedication by Border Force to protect communities across the UK from this type of crime.

“We are determined to prevent deadly weapons such as these from reaching the UK’s streets. Our work led to the seizure of more than 10,000 offensive weapons last year.”

Anyone with information on the whereabouts of Dobias can call the National Crime Agency on 0370 496 7622 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

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