Europol and law enforcement from 31 countries, led by Romania and Bulgaria, have targeted individuals suspected of buying weapons from illegal firearms dealers.
With the increasing difficulty and cost of acquiring illegal firearms, criminals often use converted alarm and signal guns. These blank-firing pistols are popular among criminals because certain models can be easily converted to fire live ammunition.
Many of the confiscated alarm and signal guns were produced in Turkey before a change in national legislation regarding their production. These weapons were imported into the EU and sold legally in Bulgaria and other member states.
However, once sold, they were frequently smuggled across borders and converted into lethal weapons in other countries, both inside and outside the EU. This illegal conversion process involves modifying the weapons to enable them to fire live ammunition. Once converted, the guns are distributed through unlawful channels, increasing the number of illegal firearms.
During the operation, 143 house searches were conducted, resulting in 22 arrests and the seizure of 129 firearms, 1,492 unconverted and converted alarm and signal weapons, 24,735 rounds of unconverted, converted, and live ammunition, 6 hand grenades, 276 kilos of dynamite, 299 detonators, and over 21 kilos of gun powder.
The operation, called Conversus, was led by the Romanian National Police as part of the European Multidisciplinary Platform Against Criminal Threats (EMPACT).
It concluded with a coordinated action week between February 20-24, 2023, involving law enforcement from 31 countries, Eurojust, and the European Commission.
EMPACT’s focus on illicit firearms aims to create an intelligence picture of convertible weapons in the EU. This enables member states to take action against individuals who illegally buy, convert, or traffic alarm and signal weapons.
Romanian National Police, along with other participating countries, collected data on suspected weapons traffickers. Simultaneously, data collection activities were conducted in specific member states where these types of weapons can be legally purchased without prior authorization.
Europol analyzed the collected data and prepared intelligence packages to inform countries about targets and weapons sales. These packages served as input for the coordinated action days in February this year.
Countries that participated in this coordinated action include Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Albania, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Norway, Serbia, Switzerland, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom.