The gang behind Britain’s biggest known gun-smuggling operation has been jailed for more than 91 years, Harry Shilling, 25, from Swanley, Kent was found guilty in April of smuggling 31 automatic rifles and pistols from eastern Europe into Britain via the River Medway in Kent. It was Britain’s biggest known gun smuggling operation.
His co-conspirator Michael Defraine, 30, from Bexleyheath, southeast London, was sentenced to 32 years for the same offence.
The weapons included 22 assault rifles similar in style to Russian made AK-47s, nine deadly submachine guns capable of firing 800 rounds a minute, 58 magazines, two silencers and 1,000 rounds of ammunition.
Detectives believe the arms could have been worth £3,500 to £4,000 on the black market and may have been purchased from a Slovakian supplier used by Islamic-extremist gunmen in the Charlie Hebdo attack last year.
Passing sentence at the Old Bailey, Judge Michael Topolski QC told Shilling: “I’m entirely satisfied the truth is you were the man in charge of this carefully planned, well-funded and sophisticated organisation.”
The “dangerous young man” had been motivated by a desire to “maintain, protect and expand” his drug business, the judge said, adding: “It has been said that it cannot be exaggerated that guns kill and maim, terrorise and intimidate and that’s why criminals want them.
“That is why they use them and that’s why they organise their importation, supply and distribution.”
The judge added that the operation could have caused carnage on a “truly horrifying scale”.
Shilling was sentenced to 30 years in jail, plus five years on extended licence for gun smuggling and possessing firearms with intent to endanger life. Defraine was given 27 years in jail, plus five years on extended licence for the same offence.
Three other men, David Payne, 44, from Rochester, Kent, Richard Rye, 24, from Swanley, and Christopher Owen, 30, also from Rochester, pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing and also received jail sentences for their role in the “sophisticated” enterprise.
Payne received 19 years and six months, including five years on extended licence, while Rye was sentenced to 19 years and three months, including five years on extended licence.
Owen, who was found with two rounds of ammunition in his pocket received five years and four months for what was described as a lesser role.