A NEW South Wales man has been charged with smuggling automatic assault rifles and hand guns into Australia following a multi-agency operation spanning two countries.
The major operation began earlier this year when Victoria Police and Australian Federal Police officers identified three similar assault rifles seized during three separate investigations.
A joint investigation was formed with the Victoria Police Armed Crime Squad, the AFP National Anti-Gangs Squad Victoria, the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Explosives, and Homeland Security Investigations.
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The Department of Immigration and Border Protection’s Intelligence Division, Australian Border Force officers and the NSW Police Firearms Squad provided additional support.
This activity was part of national Operation Athena targeting illegal firearms.
Subsequent enquiries in the USA identified a multi-state criminal conspiracy allegedly responsible for the illegal export of automatic assault rifles and hand guns into Australia.
In late June 2016, an operation resulted in the interception of a consignment consisting of six fully automatic assault rifles and 96 semi-automatic handgun frames.
It will be alleged these firearms were in the process of being prepared for export to the Australian syndicate.
Earlier this week, a total of 12 search warrants were conducted – eight in Victoria and four in Koraleigh, NSW.
During these warrants, assorted firearms and parts were seized, including an upper and lower frame for an assault rifle, 19 semi-automatic handgun frames with identical serial numbers and six semi-automatic handgun parts.
Ten kilograms of ammunition was also seized.
A 63-year-old man from Koraleigh was arrested and charged with a long list of serious offences, including two counts of attempting to traffic prohibited firearms or firearms parts into Australia and four counts of importing prohibited firearms and firearms parts into Australia.
A 44-year-old Whittington man was also arrested and charged with one count of possessing an unregistered Category E Longarm under state legislation.
Concurrent to this activity in Australia, agents from the ATF and HSI are continuing their investigation to fully identify all US-based conspirators involved in this international firearm trafficking/smuggling operation, to hold them accountable for their actions.
The Australian Federal Police said investigations were continuing in both countries and further arrests could not be ruled out.