Third man sentenced for importing 95 ‘lethal handguns’ into UK
A man who was part of an “extremely dangerous plot to smuggle 95 lethal firearms into the UK” has been jailed for more than 15 years.
It followed an investigation by the joint National Crime Agency (NCA) and Metropolitan Police Service Organised Crime Partnership (OCP).
Michael Nicholls, 28, from Slough, was found guilty in July 2018 of working with Denis Kulencukov, 26, and Stephen Spires, 38, to import the weapons into the UK from mainland Europe.
Kolencukov was arrested on July 1, 2017, after 79 handguns and thousands of rounds of ammunition were seized by Border Force officers based at Coqeulles in France following a tip off from the OCP.
The weapons were hidden in specially adapted concealments in engine blocks on the trailer of a van that was en route to the UK.
The OCP said the driver, a Polish courier, had collected the engines from Kolencukov at the Orlen petrol station in Boleslawiec, Poland, the previous day, unaware of their lethal contents.
A diary seized from the courier had entries detailing seven other previous importations conducted by Kolencukov, all of which were believed to contain firearms and ammunition.
On July 3, 2017, OCP officers conducting surveillance on an industrial estate in Seaborough, Slough, watched as Nicholls and Spires removed items from a shipping container and attempted to drive away in a van.
With support from armed Thames Valley Police officers, the van was stopped and the pair were arrested. Nine firearms were recovered stashed in a plastic carrier bag in front passenger footwell.
Officers discovered another firearm in the shipping container, and a further six were recovered as part of police operations across the UK, bringing the total seized in the operation to 95.
Yesterday (June 2) Nicholls was sentenced to 15 years and six months in prison via video link to Kingston Crown Court. Spires and Kolencukov were sentenced in March 2020 to 26 years and 19 years and two months respectively.
Detective Chief Inspector Tony O’Sullivan of the OCP said: “Nicholls is the third and final man to be jailed for this extremely dangerous plot to smuggle 95 lethal firearms into the UK. He was a trusted facilitator within the group who was fully briefed on the scale of the operation.
“As I’ve said previously, not only were these viable weapons, they were packaged up with thousands of rounds of ammunition, ready to be sold to whomever was willing to buy them.
“Handguns are the most commonly used firearms by criminals in the UK due to them being easily concealable. This investigation prevented a huge haul of them reaching the criminal market.
“The NCA and Met Police work closely together to reduce the fear and harm these weapons bring to our streets.”