Posted on January 24, 2013

Exposed: The Army’s Gun-Smuggling Soldiers

Paul Peachey, The Independent, January 21, 2013

A group of British Army soldiers based in Germany have been convicted of attempting to smuggle guns and cocaine from continental Europe to sell to the London underworld.

A former member of an elite cavalry regiment masterminded the “well-planned” operation with the help of three Army colleagues on bases in Germany and criminal contacts in three countries.

Detectives said they would continue to investigate the extent of a gun-running racket involving members of the British military after a breakthrough in the analysis of supposed “secure” phones favoured by gangsters revealed the possible involvement of other soldiers.

The four serving or former soldiers were convicted at Woolwich Crown Court along with a criminal contact in London. Lemar Loveless was arrested six days after he quit the Queen’s Royal Hussars as he and a regimental colleague drove two BMWs to Britain from Europe with five guns and cocaine with a street value of more than £70,000. Silencers and dozens of rounds of ammunition were also discovered.

Officers seized their phones and recovered the messages from the BlackBerry messaging system that helped them piece together links between the soldiers, an Italian seller based in Germany and their potential London buyer, the court heard. The messages showed that Loveless, 26, and a former Army colleague Trave Dyce, 22, travelled to Amsterdam via Germany to collect guns and cocaine, which was hidden inside a ball of tape, impregnated with curry powder to put sniffer dogs off the scent.

Analysis showed that the guns were intended for delivery to Romone Marshalleck, 24, in Tooting, south London, to pass on to criminal networks. When police raided his home, they found pictures on his iPad showing him posing with a semi-automatic pistol and another picture of a gun and magazine with bullets spelling out the message: “F*** Love”.

Two serving soldiers, Lance Laurent, 26, of the Queen’s Royal Hussars and Duran Wright, 28, of the Royal Logistic Corps, were arrested and questioned at a German military base after messages showed their involvement in the operation. None of the guns seized — two German Walther PPKs and three Italian converted pistols — were Army issue, but obtained through an Italian contact based in Germany, the court was told.

Detective Inspector Chris Jones, of Trident Gang Crime Command, said the operation “led to the removal of five lethal firearms and ammunition, weapons which would inevitably have been used to commit acts of serious violence on the streets of London.”

The deleted BlackBerry messages only came to light at the end of last year following a technological breakthrough. While police believed they have caught the main players involved in the racket, two more soldiers could be questioned over their links with the five men. The four soldiers were convicted yesterday of conspiracy to import firearms and class A drugs. Marshalleck, the only civilian, was convicted of the firearms charge. They will be sentenced on Friday. The convictions followed the jailing last year of another former soldier, Ricardo McKenzie, who smuggled a cache of guns and ammunition from Iraq into the UK in a tank.