Darknet Gun Buyer Busted in Germany

Customs investigators in Frankfurt, Germany, have arrested a 38-year-old from Bremen for allegedly purchasing two weapons and more than 500 rounds of ammunition. A special unit with the Frankfurt Customs Office conducted the investigation during an extensive operation targeting the illegal weapons trade on the darknet.

According to an announcement on zoll.de, the official website of German Customs, investigators completed the investigation into the 38-year-old on April 26, 2018. In fairness, the investigation may be ongoing; on April 26, German authorities collected enough evidence to secure an arrest warrant and successfully arrested the man.

The announcement, published on April 30, revealed that the public prosecutor’s office in Bremen initiated the investigation sometime in the month of March. Even though the press release lacked the details usually included in similar arrests, the wording suggested that the entire case landed in the lap of the Customs investigators through an undercover operation (as opposed to a package seizure or something similar). In many of these weapon cases in Germany, investigators have relied on information collected in prior darknet arrests.

This method of darknet investigation seemingly launched after the incident in Munich where David Sonboly used a pistol purchased on the darknet in several murders. After the police investigated Sonboly, his associates, classmates, and internet activity, they discovered Sonboly had purchased a Glock and ammunition from a darknet vendor on the German darknet forum “Germany in the Deepweb.” Roughly one week into the investigation, the authorities announced they had arrested the vendor behind the gun deal.

Instead of immediately locking him up and closing the case, German authorities charged him with minor weapons law violations in exchange for his cooperation in taking down additional darknet vendors and their customers. The public, however, knew none of this information until authorities issued a related press release several months later. They said they had reopened the investigation into the vendor after reading messages on his Germany in the Deepweb account. The vendor had provided the police with access to his account to enable them to gather information on other vendors (and likely previous buyers).

That case only recently closed. Authorities discovered that the vendor had not simply sold Sonboly a gun; he sold the gun, spoke with Sonboly about their shared opinions regarding race, and had a knowledge of the Munich attacks beforehand. The previous deal changed and the vendor faced new charges in light of the newfound evidence. However, law enforcement’s tactics stayed the same. Since then, many individuals arrested for darknet firearm transactions have “complied” with the police.

According to the press release, the gun deal had already been arranged before the customs investigation office of Frankfurt

picked it up. The buyer eventually agreed to meet undercover officers for the exchange. They arrested him at the meeting spot and secured search warrants for his apartment and locker at his place of employment. Investigators found five illegal weapons at his apartment and an illegally kept pistol at his workplace. He had 25 rounds of ammunition in his locker at work and thousands of rounds of ammunition at his apartment. He also had six legally owned weapons.

He has been arrested and is currently awaiting a courtroom appearance for weapons law violations.