Man Guilty of an Ordering an Explosive from the Darknet

A court in the UK convicted a 19-year-old man of attempting to import an explosive device from the darknet with intent to cause harm. Gurtej Randhawa ordered a remote-detonated explosive device from a contact on the darknet, the National Crime Agency’s Armed Operations Unit (NCA AOU) said. But Randhawa never received the device. Instead, the NCA AOU intercepted the package and replaced the device with an inert replica.

“Identifying people like Randhawa – who seek to access illegal firearms and weapons – is a priority for the NCA,” the NCA press release said. “We will not stop in our efforts to make sure they are arrested and held accountable for their actions.” Investigators from the NCA AOU somehow discovered that Randhawa had ordered a Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Device (VBIED) from a darknet explosives dealer. The NCA avoided disclosing any details pertaining to the case’s investigative dynamics.

Customs facilities and employees heavily focus on the spotting of explosives. This takes priority over illicit substances for several obvious reasons. Mail scanners could have scanned and flagged the package as suspicious. The location the explosive dealer had shipped it from could have been previously flagged, making that even more likely. The Royal Mail and NCA routinely succeed at interception of weapons. Most recently they aided Europol in the arrest of the Alphabay firearm vendor “GusTheOctopus.

Police arrested two women, an 18-year-old and a 45-year-old, alongside Randhawa. They both walked with no charges filed. Either woman could have tipped the police off. Anyone could have. Dozens of possibilities exist. Darknet market veterans frequently repeat that weapon dealers in the darknet are undercover cops. The explosive dealer in this case may have been an undercover officer with any international law enforcement agency.

Randhawa attempted to buy an explosive on the darknet that “had the potential to cause serious damage and kill many people,” Tim Gregory of the NCA’s Armed Operations Unit said. If he had successfully used it, that is. UK police arrested Randhawa in May after they observed him “testing” the explosive device.

During a previous court appearance, Randhawa pleaded guilty to attempting to import explosives. Further investigation revealed that he had ordered the explosive with malicious intent. This further investigation led to the November 2017 conviction of maliciously possessing the bomb with intent to endanger life or cause serious injury. The NCA reassured the public that the defendant “was not involved in an organized crime group or linked to terrorism,” but warned that he was a threat to the community.

Randhawa will be sentenced on January 12, 2018.