Two men convicted for smuggling machine gun haul by boat
Motorboat & Yachting: A jury today convicted two men at the Old Bailey, following the largest seizure of automatic weapons in UK history.
Harry Shilling and Michael Defraine were found guilty by a jury and will be sentenced on May 13 alongside three other men, who had already pleaded guilty, including David Payne who drove the heavily armed boat across the Channel.
Motor yacht Albernina was being tracked by the National Crime Agency (NCA) when it left UK waters on August 9 2015 and made the crossing to the French port of Boulogne-sur-Mer.
Here the men picked up a large consignment of automatic weapons, including 22 VZ58 assault rifles, 9 Skorpion machine guns, 58 magazines, two silencers and more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition.
When they returned to Britain the follow day and moored up near Cuxton on the River Medway, the authorities closed in on them.
Three people were arrested on the scene, a further two were picked up at a local DIY store where they were buying spades and pick-axes to bury the illegal weapons haul, and a sixth was arrested a local McDonalds restaurant after attempting to flee.
Rob Lewin, head of specialist operations at the NCA, said: “This seizure of automatic weapons was the largest ever made by the NCA – and, we believe, the largest ever on the UK mainland.
“We cannot say for certain what the organised crime group would have done with the weapons had they not been stopped,” he added.
“In bringing them to justice we have had fantastic support from our partners at Kent Police, the Crown Prosecution Service and Border Force. I have no doubt that together we have protected the public and saved lives.”