Global Action Against Mail Order Gun Traffickers

Over 42 000 parcels were checked and hundreds of weapons seized as part as a joint operation targeting the trafficking of firearms to and within the EU through post and courier services.

Taking place between 16-20 November, Operation ARMSTRONG VII saw the involvement of police and customs authorities from 26 countries, with international coordination efforts supported by Europol and the European Commission – DG for Taxation and Customs Union (TAXUD) and DG Migration and Home Affairs (HOME) and the Customs Cooperation Working Party (CCWP).

This operation took place in the framework of the European Multidisciplinary Platform Against Criminal Threats (EMPACT) and implements the EU action plan on firearms trafficking 2020-2025 adopted by the European Commission in July 2020.

During the action week, police and customs authorities in the participating countries carried out enhanced controls of suspicious parcels and postal shipments. This operational phase was preceded by an intelligence phase in which Europol and DG TAXUD developed risks indicators, including those relating to purchases via the dark web in order to increase the success rates of parcel controls during the action week.

Results of the action week:

  • 42 124 parcels checked
  • 416 officers involved
  • 6 firearms, 13 firearms parts and 600 pieces of ammunition seized
  • Seizure of 297 other weapons (knives, pepper spray, tasers, etc.)

Participating Countries

Austria, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Germany, Denmark, Estonia, Greece, Spain, Finland, France, Hungary, Ireland, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Sweden, United Kingdom, Switzerland, Norway, Albania, North Macedonia, United States.

Europol Support

Europol has been actively involved from the onset of this operation by collecting intelligence from all participating partners on firearms and ammunition seized from postal packages from November 2019 until October 2020. This intelligence was used as input to identify risk indicators that were shared with law enforcement to prioritise checks and identify packages possibly containing firearms or firearms-related commodities.

During the action week, Europol set up a virtual command centre and provided a platform for real time information sharing and cross-checking of intelligence, creating a communication network involving both police and custom authorities.