Police in the French southern city of Marseille have dismantled an extensive arms trafficking network – spanning from the Mediterranean to Belgium – accused of selling 3D-printed guns. Prosecutors say the trade in such weapons, which can be virtually impossible to trace, is cause for alarm.
Exhibiting weapons made using 3D printers before being sold online, Marseille's public prosecutor Nicolas Bessone told a press conference on Monday that the arms' seizure was "a first in France".
Led by the national gendarmerie's cyber division, a year of investigation – including the infiltration of Telegram groups – culminated in raids at the end of January across southern and eastern France, as well as Belgium.
Some 300 police officers were mobilised to arrest 14 people and recover eight 3D printers, seven complete 3D weapons and 24 conventional weapons. Many were undeclared and seized mainly from collectors.
The alleged head of the network was a 26-year-old man from the Var department in the south of France, who had already been convicted of a drugs offence.
After he moved to Belgium, an international arrest warrant was issued for him to be handed over to the French authorities.
Hervé Pétry, the newly appointed head of the French gendarmerie's national cyber unit, told reporters the suspect "shared a libertarian mentality" and was part of a pro-gun movement whose aim was to "distribute weapons to as many people as possible to protect themselves from the state, which they consider to be totalitarian and oppressive".
New criminal techniques
In all, six people have been remanded in custody, while five others are under judicial supervision. All are aged between 18 and 30.
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