An American man has been arrested after allegedly smuggling more than 80 handguns into Great Britain in his checked baggage on commercial flights, according to a report in The Times.
According to U.S. court documents obtained by The Times, Steven Greenoe, a former U.S. Marine who holds U.K. citizenship, was confronted on May 3 of 2010 by TSA agents at Raleigh-Durham Airport in North Carolina after scanners revealed "multiple firearms" in his checked bags.
The newspaper says the guns had been disassembled and were packed among other items of luggage. Greenoe allegedly smooth-talked his way past the TSA agents, telling them he was a legitimate arms dealer returning from the Raleigh Gun Show and that the weapons in his bags were "engineering samples," not functional firearms. They were apparently satisfied with his response and let him board the short flight to Atlanta, from where he continued on to Manchester in northwest England.
Greenoe was arrested by U.S. police in July 2010, after a number of these trans-Atlantic missions. He's charged with exporting firearms without a license.
Police officials tell The Times that Greenoe is suspected of selling his illicit wares to criminal gangs in Britain. One of the guns was reportedly used in a drive-by shooting in Manchester.
The court papers say the guns, most of them semiautomatic Glock 9mm pistols, were offered for sale in Manchester for as much as $8,000 a piece just a week after Greenoe allegedly purchased them in Raleigh for $500 each.
The Times says police chiefs across Britain were told just before Christmas to be on the lookout for as many as 60 guns still missing after Greenoe's alleged smuggling efforts.
The case raises serious questions about U.S. airport security screening, and poses a serious challenge to U.K. authorities who have been advised that Muslim extremist groups might try to stage a Mumbai-style raid with a number of gunmen attacking a densely populated public place in the near future.
Aviation security expert Phillip Baum told the BBC on Tuesday that, as Greenoe allegedly transported the firearms in his checked luggage, the passengers sharing a plane with him were in no danger. However, the case does highlight what Baum described as systemic communications problems between U.S. airport security personnel and customs officials, who should have detected the illicit cargo.
According to his profile on the LinkedIn social network, Greenoe is the Chief Executive Officer of the Jolie Rouge Group, a private security provider and consultancy.
His home is listed as the Washington D.C. Metropolitan area. The Jolie Rouge Group's website does not provide any contact information, nor does Greenoe's name appear anywhere on the site.