Gun-smuggling ring broken up
Mainland authorities have broken up a criminal ring that smuggled dozens of firearms into the country from Southeast Asia despite some of the world's toughest gun laws, Xinhua reported yesterday.
Police have arrested a 33-year-old Chinese man from Shantou, Guangdong - described by authorities as the ringleader - and another 13 suspects from Guangdong, Guangxi, Heilongjiang, Sichuan and Tianjin, the Ministry of Public Security said. The ringleader was arrested earlier this month in Thailand.
Authorities seized 37 guns, 1,686 bullets and an unspecified quantity of explosives.
The case has thrown a spotlight on an underground gun market that authorities fear may be growing even though laws against the sale, storage or manufacture of guns and explosive carry sentences of up to 10 years in prison or, in the most serious cases, death.
Earlier, Yunnan police said they had detained more than 220 people and confiscated 2,300 weapons since February in a campaign against illegal possession of explosives and weapons. However, black market explosives and pistols are still advertised openly in remote corners of the province.
In the latest case, the accused ring leader was a collector of guns and military equipment and began purchasing the weapons while on business trips to Southeast Asia, Xinhua said. He is believed to have smuggled the first contraband into Yunnan province in 2010.
Two men from Guangxi and Heilongjiang are accused of helping him to smuggle firearms into the mainland in April and September last year. Those guns were later traded online and sent via courier to buyers across the country.
The illegal trade went unnoticed by authorities until a random luggage inspection caught a courier transporting bullets from Nanning , Guangxi, to Tianjin in October. The Guangxi man confessed to police that he had smuggled weapons with the ring leader and sold them buyers in at least five provinces and municipalities.
An accused smuggler from Heilongjiang was arrested later. Police said the remaining 11 suspects were weapons traders and buyers who participated in the ring's business.
State media said they believed illegal gun factories were thriving in rural areas in Qinghai , Guizhou and Guangxi provinces, where struggling farmers manufactured rifles and pistols to make money. Reports said a pistol valued at less than 300 yuan (HK$367) was sold for 3,000 yuan to 4,000 yuan by gun makers, only to be resold by arms dealers for 13,000 yuan each.
Guangdong police authorities said gun factories were growing more common in the province.
They added that newcomers to the illicit industry can download manuals from the internet which provide detailed illustrations of how to manufacture weapons.
Number of firearms seized each year, according to the Ministry of Public Security , which said police increasingly faced armed suspects