From today's news:
Gun runners of Sydney revealed
THE three gun runners didn't care who was buying their lethal weapons or what they were going to do with them. All they wanted was the cash.
In cafes, backs of cars, even in the car park of a Wollongong hotel in daylight, Aristos Dionys, Michael Zarakas and Andrew Kafizas traded thousands of dollars for machineguns and assault weapons - the tools of trade for professional killers.
Lucky for Sydney, the man handing over the money and buying the guns was an undercover police officer.
What started as a whisper - or, as police say, "acting on information received" - led to a five-month operation which busted one of the biggest gun hauls in Australia.
In nine clandestine meetings police bought 12 weapons, including a Bren machinegun and Mauser semi-automatic pistols.
Dionys, 58, of Fairy Meadow, the main supplier, middle man Zarakas, 43, also of Fairy Meadow, and "go-to" man Kafizas, 58, of Wollongong, all pleaded guilty last week to charges of conspiring to supply prohibited weapons.
Dionys got a minimum sentence of 10 years and six months, Kafizas five years and Zarakas eight years.
The operation showed how much money can be made in the trade of illegal guns.
The trio were charging thousands of dollars for sophisticated weapons. A Mauser c96 pistol was worth $8500. Another semi-automatic pistol cost $4250 plus $600 "commission " to the contact man, Zarakas, who referred to himself in a police interview as the "Don Corleone of Wollongong".
Automatic pistols like Mausers and Glocks can fetch anything from $3000 to $8000. Machine guns and assault weapons up to $18,000. The final haul by police was more than 100 weapons, including military style machineguns, assault weapons, ammunition, semi-automatic pistols, rifles, night scopes and silencers.
Head of the operation Detective Senior-Constable Brad Reh said: "They contacted us each time. What we saw was how often they came to us with what seemed a steady supply of weapons."
Police made secret recordings of the three gun runners talking about "cars" and "fuel" - code for guns and ammunition.
Just before the last "sting" police got a call from Kafikis.
"We have something pretty big for you," he said.
That turned out to be a Bren sub-machinegun - mounted on tanks during World War II and capable of firing 500 rounds per minute, with a range of 1.5km.
The asking price: $18,000.
When police arrested the men they were pretty happy with the 12 guns they had caught them selling. During a search of Dionys' car, a detective found a business card in the ashtray for a storage facility in Padstow.
When asked about the card and the facility a very vague Dionys said he stored "ammunition and stuff" there. What police found was an arms cache of 109 weapons ranging from sub-machineguns to double-barrel shotguns. One, a hand-held, Turkish-made 9mm machine pistol was capable of firing 800 rounds a minute and is favoured by many militia and paramilitary organisations.
"Finding that card to the storage facility was gold. It could have easily been ignored but the team followed it up and from there we have made a significant in-road into the illegal gun trade," Wollongong crime manager Acting Inspector Brad Ainsworth said.
"You can only guess whose hands they would have ended up in. The dealers themselves lived in the Wollongong area but the guns were stored in south-western Sydney."
NSW police and federal police are now investigating the source of the guns - although most had the serial numbers defaced and the crims aren't talking.
"We got rid of a couple of machineguns and a whole lot of weapons destined for the streets," Insp Ainsworth said.
"These men were recklessly selling weapons for gain. They had no idea for what they were to be used or who was getting them."
Many of the guns detailed in this story have been illegal since 1997 at least, so where did they come from?