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Man sentenced for importing firearms from Spain to UK and selling them online

A man who purchased convertible blank firearms from Spain and had them shipped to Northern Ireland has been sentenced

Nathan Stephen Paul, 32, of Glenshane Road, Castledawson, was arrested by NCA officers in December 2019.

Officers searched his home and found 32 firearms and three tasers. Investigators discovered Paul had been purchasing the weapons from a website in Spain and selling them online for profit.

The firearms, classified as Front Venting Blank Firing (FVBF) weapons are readily convertible to fire live rounds and are illegal in the UK.

Paul had posted an advert online advertising the weapons, and officers could link him to courier orders made after selling weapons to others.

In total, NCA officers recovered 35 weapons linked to Paul. A further five were recovered by police, after information was passed to the forces by the NCA.

Paul pleaded guilty to two counts of possession of prohibited weapons and one count of selling firearms within the UK at Londonderry Crown Court on 26 January 2024.

He was sentenced to two-and-a-half years imprisonment, suspended for three years, at the same court today (31 May).

NCA Branch Commander David Cunningham said: “This operation saw the NCA seize a significant number of weapons from Paul who was selling these illegal items at a profit to buyers online.

“Our work with forces throughout the UK has also seen others who have purchased weapons from Paul brought to justice.

“The NCA will continue to work with partners in the UK and internationally to prevent dangerous weapons being imported and reaching those who may use them to commit further offences and cause serious harm.

”Since 2019 the NCA and Guardia Civil – which has jurisdiction in Spain for the national control of firearms – has been jointly working on Project Vizardlike to combat the threat.

More than 703 firearms have been recovered in the UK, along with 74 arrests, 51 convictions and 133 premises searched, all carried out by NCA and UK police forces.

Detective Superintendent Avine Kelly from the Police Service of Northern Ireland’s Organised Crime Branch said: “Illegal firearms are synonymous with violence.  In the hands of organised crime groups, they bring fear, intimidation and control.

“This seizure, along with today’s conclusion, is a positive step towards keeping people safe, and an excellent example of working in partnership.

“I would appeal to anyone with information, or concerns, about illegally held firearms to contact us on 101.”

PPS Assistant Director Martin Hardy said: “The PPS worked in close partnership with the National Crime Agency in respect of its investigation to build a strong prosecution case which resulted in guilty pleas.

“A large volume of evidence submitted to the PPS was examined by an experienced senior prosecutor and we will continue to work with our enforcement partners to robustly prosecute firearms offences where the Test for Prosecution is met.”

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