Three men have been arrested on suspicion of smuggling a haul of guns into the UK, including an assault rifle “with devastating firepower” used in mass shootings in the United States.
The weapons included two AR-15 assault rifles – of the same type used in mass shootings at a school in Parkland, Florida in February and at a music festival in Las Vegas last October – as well as four handguns and ammunition.
The guns were found by Border Force officials at Dover. The weapons were hidden in a special compartment in the floor of a Peugeot van being brought into the country on the back of a flat-bed truck.
The driver, a 66-year-old man from Grays, Essex, was arrested on suspicion of firearms importation and was released under investigation.
A further two men, both aged 31 and from the Basildon area, were arrested on Thursday in a series of raids by National Crime Agency (NCA) officers at five locations in Essex.
A number of house searches took place during which several thousand pounds in cash was recovered.
NCA senior investigating officer Darren Herbert said: “In recent weeks we have seen a number of significant firearms seizures at Dover and I would say that is testament to the hard work of the NCA, Border Force and other law enforcement partners who strive to protect the public.
“We know that one of the types of weapon detected in this particular seizure has devastating firepower, having been used in a number of mass shootings in the United States.
“This makes it all the more important that these weapons are kept out of the hands of violent criminals and off our streets.
“Our investigations continue.”
Paul Morgan, director of Border Force South East and Europe, said: “The weapons had been hidden in a specially adapted concealment within the floor of a Peugeot van which could only be opened electronically.
“The vehicle had been altered with the sole purpose of smuggling in mind.”