Multiple arrests and firearms seized following national week of action

Border Operations 31/10/2022
Operation ATHENA sees law enforcement agencies across Australia join forces to target illegal guns


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A NATIONAL crackdown on illicit firearms has seen 86 people arrested and 523 firearms seized as part of a week of action involving multiple law enforcement agencies across the country.

Operation Athena, a national law enforcement group comprising of police from jurisdictions across Australia and Federal agencies including Australian Border Force (ABF) and Australian Federal Police (AFP), undertook a week of action across Australia to target illicit firearms.

The co-ordinated strikes between 23 October and 29 October led to a number of arrests and seizures of firearms and firearm parts.

During the ABF-led week of action authorities also seized a number of gel blasters, which are of increasing concern, given they can look identical to real handguns, shotguns and rifles.

The colour, size and detail of seized gel blasters makes it difficult for anyone to see the difference between a toy and a real firearm. 

A number of people were also arrested for allegedly making hybrid 3D printed guns, another area of growing concern for law enforcement. The operation has led to:

  • 86 arrests
  • 523 firearms seized (including 51 gel blasters and 32 airsoft/imitation firearms)
  • 209 firearm parts seized
  • 103 search warrants executed
  • 224 Firearm Prohibition Order compliance searches
  • 477 Safe Storage Inspections

A number of operations were carried out during the week of action. They included:

  • In Victoria, on 24 October Victoria Police and the ABF executed a search warrant at a residential property in Montmorency. A 34-year-old Montmorency man was charged with a range of firearms and weapons offences, including possess trafficable quantity of unregistered firearms and four counts of manufacture long arm without a licence. Police seized 35 items from the address, including eight privately made firearms (four of which were military style weapons), two 3D printers, ammunition, firearm parts and several swords. A further 48 firearms were seized from an address in Macleod. The man has been bailed to appear at the Heidelberg Magistrates' Court on 28 March 2023.​

  • In New South Wales, Drug and Firearms Squad detectives and the ABF, executed a search warrant at a home in Warners Bay.  During a subsequent search, police located and seized equipment consistent with the manufacture of firearms, printed firearm parts, numerous 3D printers, ammunition, steroids, and precursor chemicals.  A 38-year-old man was arrested at the home and taken to Belmont Police Station, where he was charged with two counts of possess digital blueprint for manufacture of firearms, possess ammunition without holding a licence, and possess prohibited drug.  He was refused bail and appeared at Newcastle Local Court the following day, where he was formally refused bail to reappear at the same court on 9 November.

  • In Queensland, ABF and Queensland Police Service executed a warrant in Meadowbrook. A number of firearms were seized including a M60 belt fed machine gun, two Beretta semi auto handguns, one Glock 19 semi auto handgun, one Colt semi auto handgun and one sh​ortened double barrel shot gun. A 74-year-old male was charged with unlawful possession of weapons and possession of unregistered weapons.

  • In South Australia, a 24-year-old Kangaroo Island man was previously arrested for firearms offences including manufacturing of firearms, possessing prescribed firearms, possessing ammunition without licence, insecure ammunition, possessing prohibited weapons and possessing instructions for making explosive devices. SA Police and ABF officers located a 3D printer, several homemade firearms and other prohibited weapons. The man has been bailed to appear in the Kingscote Court on November 21.

  • In Tasmania, police and ABF searched a property in southern Tasmania on 24 October which resulted in the seizure of seven firearms, including four gel blaster replica firearms. A man has been charged with ten counts of possessing unregistered firearms, failing to ensure safe keeping of firearm, mailing firearm, firearm parts and ammunition into Tasmania and possessing a firearm without a licence.

  • In Western Australia, ABF officers and the WA Police Drug and Firearms Squad executed a number of warrants at a Mullaloo property. This resulted in the seizure of a large amount of items, including firearm manufacturing tools, firearm parts, gel blasters, modified and replica firearms, ammunition and airsoft guns. An amount of cannabis with a street value of $20,000 was also seized. A man has been arrested and charged with offences including the cultivation, sale and supply of drugs and manufacture of a firearm.  

  • On 27 October, the AFP National Anti-Gangs Squad (NAGS) NSW consisting of AFP, New South Wales Police and Australian Taxation Office with support from NSWPF Criminal Groups Squad and Raptor Squad conducted operational activity in relation to illicit firearms.

Police conducted search warrants at two premises and seized items including a laptop computer containing 3D printing blueprints for a Glock 17 pistol, a 3D printer and reels of 3D printing filament. A 40-year-old Sydney man was charged with possessing digital blue prints for manufacture of firearms, police pursuit - not stop - drive dangerously, not stop vehicle when directed to do so, and drive motor vehicle during disqualification period.

ABF Assistant Commissioner East Erin Dale said ABF officers around the country are skilled in targeting suspect consignments and detecting firearms.  In the lead up to the operation, the ABF made 98 seizures of illicit firearms, firearm parts and firearm accessories at the border.

“The ABF works tirelessly to protect the community by targeting those seeking to create or import illicit firearms," Assistant Commissioner Dale said.

“ABF and its Federal and State and Territory law enforcement partners will continue to target people who attempt to import firearms, parts or accessories such as silencers into Australia without a proper permit.

“We work closely with our partner agencies to disrupt criminals seeking to obtain illegal firearms and firearm parts which can potentially harm the Australian community.

“This highly successful week of action shows the ABF is determined to stop illicit firearms ending up on Australian streets."

National chair of Operation Athena, Detective Superintendent John Watson from NSW Police Force's Drug and Firearms Squad, said the illicit manufacture and importation of firearms will not be tolerated.

“Intelligence sharing across law enforcement is commonplace and we can very easily identify and target those responsible for the importation and manufacture of illicit firearms," Det Supt Watson said.

“None of those arrested in NSW had the required permits or licenses to import or manufacture firearms or firearm parts, and pleading ignorance is not an excuse.

“Firearms compliance and regulation is a top priority for law enforcement because these are the deadly weapons of choice by criminal networks and present a significant threat to the community.

“With a number of people now bail refused and before the court following this year's week of action, the message is simple; comply with our firearms legislation or face the consequences." 

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