Police raid illegal workshop for 3D printed weapons in Leuven

Police raid illegal workshop for 3D printed weapons in Leuven
3-D printed weapons. Credit: Leuven Federal Judicial Police

The Federal Judicial Police of Leuven dismantled an illegal weapons workshop where ready-to-use weapons were made with a 3D printer to be offered for sale on the dark web. Two suspects were arrested, the Leuven Public Prosecutor's Office announced on Monday.

House searches were carried out last week simultaneously in France and Belgium. In Belgium, these were in Leuven and Oud-Heverlee, where two people were arrested. The suspects, an 18-year-old woman from Leuven and a 26-year-old man from France were arrested.

In the house where the couple was staying, investigators found an illegal weapons workshop. During the raid, the 3D printer was actively printing pen guns (firearms in the shape of a ballpoint pen). Dozens of metal and plastic weapon parts, as well as ready-to-use 3D firearms, were seized.

The weapons – permit-required (semi-automatic) and prohibited (fully automatic) firearms – were produced via 3D printing in combination with parts from web shops. The weapons are completely unmarked and cannot be traced, which makes them popular with criminals, as the authorities cannot discover where the weapons come from.

'Just as dangerous'

The 3D-printed weapons look "real" and the Prosecutor's Office also supposes that they are just as dangerous. "We have not been able to test the firearms. But since real ammunition can be fired in them, we assume that they are just as dangerous as regular firearms."

The investigation was launched by the French judiciary, which informed the Federal Judicial Police of Leuven in August 2023.

The investigation showed that several packages containing weapon parts were sent to a home in Oud-Heverlee. They found that the possible key figure, a 26-year-old man with French nationality, was somewhere in Leuven.

In addition to the two arrests in Belgium, another nine people – mainly buyers of illegal firearms – were caught and arrested in France during last week's major action. "The joint operation can be considered one of the biggest police successes in the fight against 3D arms trafficking and production for this purpose in Europe," officials stated.

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