Police in northern Italy stopped a Turkish man attempting to transport a load of 781 pump-action Winchester SXP shotguns north into Belgium and seized the merchandise.
The Turk was planning to take the half million dollars worth of guns through Germany and Holland and eventually into Belgium, but Italy’s Financial Police and Customs officials searched his vehicle and found and confiscated the unlicensed guns.
The majority of the Winchester shotguns (716) were of caliber 12-51 and another 66 of caliber 12-41 and each was contained in a separate cardboard box. The shipment of guns reached the port of Trieste by ferry from Turkey on November 23. Given the peculiarities of the cargo, its origin and destination, the finance police (guardie di finanza) and customs officials looked further and discovered that the guns were unlicensed.
Although no customs laws were broken, no authorization had been given for transport across Italian territory. The trailer truck carrying the guns was subjected to a further scan to exclude the possibility of the presence of other hidden weapons.
In a statement Thursday Italy’s finance police said that the weapons were found in a trailer truck with Dutch license plates as it crossed the border on Tuesday.
Italian police have reached out to Belgian authorities to see what they know about the guns and the company that arranged their transfer.
The seizure corresponds to an increase of security at EU borders since the Paris attacks of November 13. Although the jihadist attacks involved AK-47 assault weapons and explosive suicide belts, pump-action rifles capable of firing three rounds a second aroused concerns.
Historically Belgium has been known as a European center for arms trade, and although Belgian laws are stricter than they used to be, the country has retained its reputation.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome