Darknet Arms Deal Resulted In Prison Sentences For Four Belgians
On May 22, four defendants were standing trial at the Criminal Court of Tongeren, Belgium for attempted purchase of 10 Glock pistols. However, the deal was never conducted, before it could be made, law enforcement authorities arrested the suspects who sought to conduct the arms trade. On June 19, the Criminal Court of Tongeren sentenced all of the suspects to prison, in addition to a fine they were ordered to pay to the Belgian government.
An 18-year-old from Dilsen-Stokkem, Belgium, his father, and two accomplices had to stand before the Criminal Court of Tongeren for illegal arms trade. According to the court documents, the 18-year-old browsed darknet marketplaces to search for listings advertising the sale of weapons. Eventually, the activities of the suspects were exposed by undercover agents. Court documents stated that the young defendant used the dark web to purchase illegal products since he was 16-years-old. In December 2016, law enforcement authorities received information showing that the 18-year-old was actively seeking to purchase numerous handguns from sellers residing on the darknet. Under a pseudonym, he contacted multiple buyers and sellers on marketplaces. What he did not know though, that some of the arms traders he messaged with were undercover law enforcement agents. When the teenager contacted two of them seeking to purchase the weapons, they accepted the trade.
The court documents described that the 18-year-old contacted the two agents multiple times, negotiated the price up to 1,500 euros per weapon and wanted to get a deal done. In total, he would buy 10 weapons per transaction. The investigators claimed that the 18-year-old didnât even try to hide his interest in AK assault rifles. Eventually, the trade was agreed on December 21, 2016, with the location at a parking lot of the fast-food chain McDonald’s in Bilzen. According to the court documents, the two accomplices âhad to do the dirty workâ bringing the transaction to a âsuccessful conclusion.â The duo was caught during the deal, while the 18-year-old was also detained shortly after. His father, who was considered as the primary suspect in the case by the prosecution, managed to escape from the hands of law enforcement authorities. When the two accomplices were arrested by the police, they had quite strange excuses ready. During the questioning, one of them told the investigators that he was âcalled by a stranger on the street,â while the other said he âhappened to fancy a burger.â
The prosecution did not agree with the 18-year-oldâs lawyer, who stated that his client was innocent and the whole case happened by an accident. According to the prosecutor, the defendant was an active user of the dark web, where âyou will find assassins and child pornography.â He also brought up fake credentials as an example of the illicit products traded on the dark side of the internet. The prosecutor emphasized that law enforcement authorities provided them with information stating that the 18-year-old had conducted 269 purchases on the dark web by himself.
“Arms trade was often neglected in the past. Now, it is a booming business. Especially after the attacks, arms deserves attention,â the federal prosecutor said attaching great importance to this matter. The prosecution recommended four years with one year suspended to the 18-year-old, while five years to his father. The two accomplices have to fear for two to four years in prison.
However, on the other hand, the lawyers asked for community service or suspended sentences for their clients.
“He was no more than the wrong person in the wrong place,” the 18-year-oldâs lawyer said.
Despite the lawyer’sâ request, since the judge found all of the defendants guilty of the charges against them, he sentenced all the suspects to prison. The 18-year-old has to spend two years behind the bars along with a fine of 600 euros. The father and the two accomplices were sentenced by the judge to three years of prison along with fines. According to the court documents, in total, the four defendants were ordered to pay fines of 6,000 euros.