A vast 3D printed weapons trafficking network dismantled in France and Belgium

After the dismantling of a vast network in France and Belgium trafficking weapons manufactured with 3D printers, Nicolas Bessone, the Marseille prosecutor, was alarmed on Monday by an “Uberization of arms trafficking

A vast 3D printed weapons trafficking network dismantled in France and Belgium

After the dismantling of a vast network in France and Belgium trafficking weapons manufactured with 3D printers, Nicolas Bessone, the Marseille prosecutor, was alarmed on Monday by an “Uberization of arms trafficking.” “This is a first in France” which “does not fail to worry us”, he declared during a press conference during which three of these weapons seized at the end of January were presented.

Led by the “cyber” division of the national gendarmerie, meticulous investigations carried out over a year, which included the infiltration of investigators into Telegram groups, were necessary to achieve this vast raid in the French regions of Provence. -Alpes-Côte d'Azur, Ile-de-France, Grand-Est and Midi-Pyrénées as well as in Belgium.

Three hundred gendarmes, including members of the GIGN, were mobilized to arrest fourteen people, recover eight 3D printers, seven weapons entirely manufactured using 3D printing as well as twenty-four conventional weapons, most of them undeclared and seized mainly from collectors.

At the head of this network was a 26-year-old man, already convicted of a drug-related offense, living in the town of Roquebrune-sur-Argens (Var). While he has since moved to Belgium, an international arrest warrant has been issued for him to be handed over to French authorities.

“He shared a libertarian mentality” as part of “the American pro-arms movement” whose goal is to “spread weapons to as many people as possible to protect themselves from the State [which its followers] consider to be totalitarian and oppressive », Explained Colonel Hervé Pétry, head of the national “cyber” unit.

Parts sent one by one to the buyer

In all, six people were placed in pre-trial detention, five others are under judicial supervision, including one kept at home with an electronic bracelet. All are between 18 and around 30 years old, some have criminal records.

Among them, some were responsible for manufacturing weapons, others served as intermediaries for resale. Buyers (collectors or people linked to drug trafficking) were also arrested. In order to evade controls, parts manufactured using a 3D printer were sent one by one to the buyer.

“This remains prohibited by law with penalties of up to six years of imprisonment,” recalled Mr. Bessone. “This is an Uberization of arms trafficking,” which were sold on online sites in cryptocurrencies, he continued. He concludes that “delinquency adapts to new techniques”.

Among the weapons seized are "FGC-9s" for "Fuck Gun Control" with characteristics similar to submachine guns: firing traditional 9-millimeter cartridges, the most common handgun caliber in the world, they could be manufactured from the person's home with a 3D printer “purchased for around 150 euros” following a guide easily found on the “dark Web”.

These weapons, “of good or even very good” quality, devoid of marking and therefore not traceable, are “95% close to the original model”, specified Colonel Pétry. They could then be resold for between 1,000 and 1,500 euros, “that is, cheaper than a Kalashnikov,” according to the prosecutor.

An FGC-9 type weapon was used last June during a failed assassination attempt: two people on a stolen motorcycle shot at people gathered in front of a business in the center of Marseille. The weapon was then found, and two suspects arrested, confused by their DNA.

In 2019, the shooter in Halle, Germany, used a 3D-printed weapon he designed in his attack on a synagogue and a Turkish restaurant, which left two people dead.