- A massive international weapons trafficking sting in the US and South America has resulted in the seizure of 5,300 firearms and 167 explosives.
- Thousands of weapons were being illegally shipped from Florida to Argentina and Brazil, where they were dispersed to criminal gangs.
- Authorities said the bust, called “Operation Patagonia Express,” was the largest firearm seizure in Argentina’s history.
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A massive international weapons trafficking operation has resulted in the seizure of 5,300 firearms and 167 explosives, federal authorities announced on Friday. Investigators also arrested 25 people and issued 53 search warrants across the United States, Argentina, and Brazil.
The massive sting, called “Operation Patagonia Express,” stymied Florida arms traffickers who have brought in millions on the black market by supplying criminal gangs in South America with weapons. The weapons that were confiscated included AR-15 rifles, handguns, grenades, and military-grade aircraft and tank weaponry, officials said during a news conference, according to the Miami Herald.
Authorities described the bust as the largest firearm seizure in Argentina’s history, WTVJ reported.
“Now we have the largest Argentine firearms seizure in their history,” said Anthony Salisbury, special agent in charge of ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations in Miami. “South Florida does seem to be a hub for weapons trafficking into South America.”
HSI Miami first launched the operation last year after US Customs and Border Protection deflected a mislabeled package of weapons parts in Florida, the Herald reported. US agents were assisted by authorities from Argentina and Brazil, with Argentina National Gendarmerie Commandment Martin Myslicki acknowledging “if we want to tackle those international organisations, we have to work together,” according to WSVN.
“With this partnership, we prevented the illicit sale and proliferation of a significant cache of weapons by keeping them out of the hands of criminals and transnational criminal organisations operating in Argentina and Brazil,” added Matthew T. Albence, deputy director of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
The weapons were purchased at licensed firearm shops or gun shows in Florida where criminal background checks weren’t thoroughly enforced, and then sent abroad illegally through the US Postal Service, according to the Herald.
In total, authorities also seized around $US100,000 in cash during the operation.
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