Three Coventry University students are facing substantial prison sentences for their involvement in plots to import and sell illegal firearms and ammunition.
All three had denied conspiring to evade the prohibition on the importation of prohibited weapons, a similar offence in relation to ammunition, and conspiring to sell prohibited weapons.
But ringleader Shajee Buhary (23) of St Michael’s Road, Coventry, changed his pleas to guilty on the first day of their trial at Warwick Crown Court.
After deliberating for more than 19 hours over the course of three days, the jury convicted Gabriel Addai-Brmpah (23) of Caludon Road, Coventry, all three charges.
And after a further three hours, Matthew Sidhu (23) also of Caludon Road, who had been cleared of conspiring to import the guns, was found guilty of the other two charges.
Buhary was already in custody, and Addai-Brmpah, who had been photographed holding one of the guns ‘gangsta-style,’ was remanded in custody after being found guilty.
Following Sidhu’s conviction, his barrister Trevor Meegan said he had not even told his family about his arrest, adding: “It is now up to him to tell them about the outcome and the inevitable lengthy sentence he’ll receive.”
Sidhu was also remanded in custody while pre-sentence reports are prepared on him, and will be sentenced with the other two on a date to be fixed when all the barristers in the case are available.
Judge Sally Hancox told him: “This jury has found you guilty of your part in two conspiracies, one to import ammunition from the US into the UK, and one for your part in the criminal selling of what by then would have amounted to illegal firearms.
“There can only be one type of sentence to be imposed, and that is a custodial sentence.”
And she warned him: “These types of offences attract a minimum term of custody of five years. The sentence you receive will exceed that figure.”
Prosecutor Charles Crinion had told the jury: “This case concerns three Coventry University students, intelligent young men who have willingly got themselves involved in serious criminality, the importing and selling of prohibited firearms.
“Why did they get themselves involved? Perhaps they thought it was cool, perhaps it was for the money.”
Of the charges, he said Buharry, Addai-Brmpah and others, allegedly including Sidhu, had conspired to evade the prohibition on importing prohibited weapons.
“In this case that also means conversion kits, whereby a legal CO2 gas-powered gun can be converted into a lethal gun that fires real bullets.
“We say that over three months the defendants and others both in this country and in America agreed to import prohibited weapons and ammunition into this country and then to sell them.”
The jury was shown a large number of text and WhattsApp messages which had been exchanged between the defendants and between Buhary and a young woman called Anastasia in Arizona.
In an early messages in November 2015, Buhary asked her for a favour, and when she agreed, he told her: “I need a gun.”
He said he needed ‘one set of bullets and a gun,’ which he told her to take apart and post to him in two parcels, before asking her at the end of December: “BTW can you get hold of 22 LR [long-range] ammo?”
In further exchanges he described having to make 200 rounds of ammunition, which he said was ‘boring,’ commenting that he had ‘an incredible amount of orders.’
Mr Crinion said arrangements were made for four parcels to be sent from Arizona to the UK, two of which each contained 50 bullets, with the other two containing the parts of a handgun.
“Those two were stopped in California a short time after they had been posted in a UPS store. They had been badly wrapped, and one of them came apart, and the manager called the police.”
The two packages containing bullets were intercepted in this country, one of which was addressed to Buhary who signed for it when it was delivered by a police officer posing as a courier.
“We say Buhary was the main organiser, and it is clear he was working with a serious criminal who was in prison at the time, but had a secret mobile phone and was in contact with Buhary who would report how matters were progressing.”
Mr Crinion said Addai-Brmpah played a more minor role to help Buhary by giving advice on what to get, the best way to hide them when importing them, and finding addresses to which they could be sent.
One he provided in a text message was one to which part of the intercepted gun was addressed, and other messages showed he was ‘trying to find people who would be interested in buying what Buhary was selling.’
Sidhu also played a more minor role, providing help to Buhary knowing full-well what was going on, including making a Western Union payment to Anastasia for the ammunition.
And on the night the package was delivered to Buhary, Sidhu was helping him make bullets of a kind that could be used in the handgun due to arrive from America and in CO2 guns which were converted using kits also imported from the US.
Mr Crinion pointed out it was known Sidhu was at Buhary’s home, where bullet-making equipment including lead and bullet casings were found, that night.
There was also a text from Addai-Brmpah asking how the bullet-making was going, to which Buhary replied: “We want to get started as soon as Matt finishes eating.”