Man jailed for smuggling lethal weapons into the UK
Another man who was part of a gun smuggling ring which saw lethal sub machine guns and a pistol illegally imported into the UK has been jailed.
Police said two sub-machine guns, a pistol and multiple rounds of ammunition were uncovered stuck to the bottom of hire van travelling along the M23 near Crawley last year.
Andrew Charles Billings admitted being involved in smuggling the weapons into the UK and was sentenced to a total of 12 years behind bars.
Sussex Police Serious Organised Crime Unit pulled the hire van over on the off-slip at junction 10 of the motorway on January 17 last year.
A self-loading Walther P38 pistol, two reactivated Czechoslovakian Skorpion sub-machine-guns, and 157 rounds of ammunition were discovered covered in black tape and attached to the bottom of the vehicle by magnets.
Officers said the pistol had two magazines,one of which was loaded into the weapon and contained six rounds of 9mm ammunition. A spare magazine containing seven rounds was also found.
One of the machine guns contained a loaded magazine with 16 rounds of .32 ammunition. The other did not contain a magazine, but there was an unloaded spare magazine.
There was also a further 150 rounds of .32 ammunition in three boxes for the Skorpions and sound suppressor.
Police said the weapons were originally smuggled into the country on the underside of a tourist coach.
Following the discovery two other men - Nicholas Barbary, 29, unemployed, of Walesbeech, Crawley, and Mark Maynard, 30, self-employed, of New England Road, Haywards Heath - were arrested.
On Thursday August 31, 2017, at Lewes Crown Court the pair pleaded guilty to importing and possessing the weapons with intent to endanger life.
Barbary was sentenced to 12 years in jail and Maynard was sentenced to 16 years and two months behind bars.
Billings, 32, unemployed, of Rushetts Close, was arrested at an address in Vinkeveen in the Netherlands on July 25 last year on a European Arrest Warrant.
Police said his extradition was authorised by the District Court of Amsterdam on September 26 and he was extradited on October 5.
Billings pleaded guilty to being concerned in the fraudulent evasion of prohibition on the importation of goods, and conspiracy to possess firearms with intent to endanger life.
He was sentenced to 12 years in prison at Hove Crown Court on Thursday June 28 and was also given a confiscation order for £11,500, to be paid within three months or to serve a further seven months if he failed to pay, although he will still have to pay.
At the same hearing officers said Barbary and Maynard were given confiscation orders for nominal amounts as the values of their current assets were assessed to be minimal.
Detective Sergeant Paul Graham said; “All these arrests followed our intelligence-led investigation, which showed that the trio were responsible for these weapons, ammunition and related material coming into the UK, and for their collection once here.
“We have not yet established exactly what was planned or where the weapons were to be moved to once they arrived in the UK, and our enquiries continue, but they were clearly intended for criminal use in or around Sussex.
“On 17 January we had followed Maynard and Barbary from Crawley to a coach park in Coventry, where they retrieved a package attached by magnets to the underside of a coach that had returned the previous day from a routine tourist trip to Belgium and attached it to the underside of their van. We followed and stopped them when they came back to Sussex.
“The package had been attached to the coach without the knowledge of the coach operators or the passengers.
“It became clear that Barbary travelled to The Netherlands via Belgium earlier that month, collected the firearms from Billings, and attached them to the underside of the coach.
“He then returned to the UK, ready to go to Coventry with Maynard.
“Clearly these weapons posed a real threat to people in Sussex and elsewhere, whether engaged in crime or law-abiding. But we were able, working with law enforcement partners in the UK and abroad, to prevent them reaching the streets and causing injury or death.”
Police said there was no evidence of any terrorist connection or motive in this case.