Gun runningMore than eighty handguns smuggled on passenger flights to U.K.

Published 27 January 2011

An American man successfully smuggled more than eighty handguns aboard passenger flights to the United Kingdom; the man was only apprehended after British investigators tipped off American officials; the suspect transported as many as twenty handguns by breaking them up and placing them in his checked baggage; at one point TSA officials discovered multiple firearms in his bags, confronted him, and allowed him to board the plane with the weapons; U.S. authorities arrested him as he tried to smuggle sixteen handguns on another flight; it is estimated that he took more than a dozen flights in this manner

An American man successfully smuggled more than eighty handguns aboard passenger flights to the United Kingdom before finally being caught.

Steven Greenoe, an illegal arms dealer, had smuggled handguns from the United States to be sold in the United Kingdom beginning in late 2009 until he was apprehended by U.S. authorities in July of last year, after a British led investigation.

U.S. officials are particularly concerned by his ability to smuggle weapons on passenger flights, considering the increased security measures and greater vigilance at airports in the wake of the failed Christmas Day bombing of a flight in 2009.

According to the Times, one unnamed U.S. counter-terrorism official said that, “This situation calls for an urgent reassessment of airport security in the States.”

Greenoe primarily smuggled his weapons through Raleigh-Durham International, exposing the lax security measures at these smaller regional airports.

Beginning in November 2009 until last July, Greenoe took at least a dozen flights from Raleigh-Durham heading to Atlanta, where he connected to planes heading to Manchester, England.

On each flight Greenoe had broken up as many as twenty handguns and distributed their parts among his checked baggage. These bags had been screened and flew aboard a domestic plane before eventually being transferred to a transatlantic flight.

More startling to officials was the fact that the guns had been discovered once before and he was still allowed to board the plane with his baggage.

On 3 May 2010 Raleigh-Durham airport officials discovered multiple firearms in his baggage. According to Transportation Security Administration (TSA) regulations, firearms can be transported aboard baggage so long as they are announced and packed in secure containers in checked baggage.

TSA officials questioned Greenoe, but he managed to successfully talk his way aboard the plane with his guns by saying he was an arms-dealer returning from a gun show.

Authorities suspect that he smuggled eighty-one handguns in this manner.

“The fact that he was able to carry on undetected for so long is bad. That he was stopped at least once with guns in his bags and was then allowed to catch his flight is astonishing,” said another unnamed counter-terrorism official.

U.S. authorities only became aware of Greenoe’s activities after they were tipped off by British authorities tracking the case.

In the United Kingdom. it is difficult to obtain handguns and after a number of new handguns began turning up in crimes, officials began to investigate their origins. To their surprise the guns originated from North Carolina rather than Europe, the traditional source of weapons for British criminals.

So far British authorities have recovered twenty handguns, but are still looking for an additional sixty.

U.K. counter-terrorism officials are especially keen on recovering these weapons in light of intelligence warnings that British al Qaeda cells are looking to obtain weapons to launch a Mumbai-style attack.

Greenoe was arrested in July 2010 in the United States with sixteen pistols in his suitcase.

After his arrest, Washington and London held emergency meetings to discuss additional security measures.