Two West Sussex men who tried to smuggle loaded guns into the county have been jailed.
Nicholas Barbary, 29, unemployed, of Walesbeech, Crawley, and Mark Maynard, 30, self-employed, of New England Road, Haywards Heath, have been sentenced to more than 28 years for importing, and possessing with intent to endanger life, two sub-machine guns and a handgun along with more than 100 rounds of ammunition.
Police said a self-loading Walther P38 Luger pistol, two reactivated Czechoslovakian Skorpion sub-machine-guns, and ammunition were discovered in a hire van which armed officers pulled over on the slip road at junction 10 of the M23 in January.
The guns were wrapped in black plastic tape and were attached to the underside of the van by magnets. A further 157 rounds of ammunition was also seized.
A spokesman for Sussex Police said: “The pistol had two magazines, one of which was loaded into the weapon and contained six rounds of 9mm ammunition. The spare magazine contained seven rounds.
“One of the machine guns contained a loaded magazine with 16 rounds of .32 ammunition. The other Skorpion did not contain a magazine, but there was an unloaded spare magazine which would fit either of them.
“There were also a further 150 rounds of .32 ammunition in three boxes, for the Skorpions and sound suppressor which is capable of fitting those weapons.”
Police have released a video showing how powerful the Skorpion machine gun is.
Detective Sergeant Paul Graham said; “These arrests followed intelligence and our investigation showed that the pair were responsible for these weapons coming into the UK and their collection once here. Although we have not yet established exactly what if anything specific was planned or where the weapons were to be moved to, they were clearly intended for criminal use in or around Sussex.
“On January 17 we followed Maynard and Barbary from Crawley to a coach park in Coventry, where they retrieved a package attached by magnets to the underside of a coach that had returned the previous day from a routine tourist trip to Belgium and attached it to the underside of their van. We followed and stopped them when they came back to Sussex.
“The package had been attached to the coach without the knowledge of the coach operators or the passengers.
“Clearly these weapons posed a real threat to people in Sussex and elsewhere, whether engaged in crime or law-abiding. But we were able, working with law enforcement partners in the UK and abroad, to prevent them reaching the streets and causing injury or death.”
The pair pleaded guilty to importing the weapons and possessing with intent to endanger life and were sentenced at Lewes Crown Court on Thursday August 31.
Police said Barbary was sentenced to 12 years in prison and Maynard was sentenced to 16 years and two months. Both will have to serve the first two-thirds of their sentences before being eligible to apply for parole, and will have to serve a further four years extended prison release licence supervision after their eventual release.
Tom Guest from the CPS said: “Maynard and Barbary used a tourist coach excursion to smuggle deadly weapons into the country. Both engaged in significant planning to carry out this serious criminality. The CPS worked closely with Sussex Police to build a strong case against the men, leaving them with no choice but to plead guilty.”
Police added there was no evidence of any terrorist connection or motive.