The Norwegian police have disclosed the results of "Operation Bonanza", a four-year investigation into illegal weapons sales that was launched in 2015, when an exceptionally large amount of firearms was seized in Telemark County, Norwegian broadcaster NRK reported.
In total, the police have found at least 2,361 weapons, many of them military-grade, in what has been dubbed the largest-ever case of illegal arms in Norway. The "trophies" include machine guns used by the police for special missions, revolvers, automatic weapons, and even a recoil-free gun that can be used against armoured vehicles. The seizures, the largest of which counted as many as 600 weapons, occurred at undisclosed locations across Norway.
While some of the seizures and subsequent arrests involved licensed weapons collectors, others involved military personnel and the police themselves. The probe revealed "deficient routines" for handling weapons by the Norwegian police and defence, Lena Reif of the South East Police District said.
For example, only 122 weapons were registered by the military as destroyed.
"Collectors and traders have taken advantage of loopholes and weaknesses in the police's own weapons management", Reif explained. In some cases, weapons were written off after their fictitious "destruction".
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Some of the weapons seized were earmarked for markets abroad, as some were even tagged with prices in euros.
So far, "Operation Bonanza" has resulted in charges against 67 people, ranging from "collectors who have a genuine interest in weapons" to hardened criminals and cases where the investigators were "unable to determine the motivation for acquiring weapons", according to Skule Worpvik, the leader of the special investigation.
As the case unfolded, 17 people have been convicted. In the aftermath of "Operation Bonanza", the military reportedly "changed its routines" for destroying weapons, while police districts are in the process of tightening their own weapons management.