A joint Europol operation lead by Rumania and Bulgaria seized 1 621 weapons, 24 735 rounds of ammunition, and explosives. Investigators confiscated former signal weapons that had been modified to shoot live ammunition.
As the supply of lethal weaponry is declining within European borders, criminals and criminal organizations resort to transforming alarm and signal weapons. These blank-firing pistols have become a weapon of choice for criminals, as certain models have proved to be easily converted to discharge live ammunition.
Most of the seized alarm and signal weapons are models produced in Türkiye. From there they were legally exported to the EU and offered for sale in Bulgaria and other member states. Once within European borders, criminal organizations got hold of them and modified them to shoot live ammunition.
Joint effort against illegal firearm trafficking
To prohibit further distribution of the former signal weaponry, Europol organized a joint operation against illegal firearm trafficking. This operation, known as Conversus, was led by the Romanian National Police (Poliția Română) in the framework of the European Multidisciplinary Platform Against Criminal Threats (EMPACT). It culminated in an action week coordinated by Europol between 20-24 February 2023, involving law enforcement from 31 countries, alongside Eurojust and the European Commission.
EMPACT activity concerning illicit firearms aims to build an intelligence picture of the situation of convertible weapons in the EU. This allows Member States to take operational measures against persons who illegally purchase, convert or traffic alarm and signal weapons.
The following countries took part in this coordinated action: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Albania, Kosovo*, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Norway, Serbia, Switzerland, Ukraine, United Kingdom.