Self-loading Glock pistols, normally used only by police, were dismantled and hidden in hollowed-out electrical goods shipped from Texas to Bradford, Leeds and Pontefract.
Ringleaders Mohammed Tariq, 33, and Atique Arif, 32, liaised with a gun trader from the Houston area to arrange for the weapons to be delivered so they could be reassembled by criminals in the UK.
The conspiracy was uncovered when UK Border Agency officials at an airport inspected three parcels bound for Bradford and found enough parts to make two guns.
Details of the enterprise were disclosed during a three-week trial at Bradford Crown Court, which ended yesterday.
Judge Jonathan Durham Hall QC said the semi-automatic G26 pistols, were deadly and the gang had found “thousands of pounds” to pay for them. They imported 12 pistols into the UK but, despite extensive police inquiries, only five have been recovered.
The judge said: “One of the chilling matters and features of this case is that, as we speak, seven fully operational Glock semi-automatic weapons are in circulation within this city or this county or this country.”
He added: “(The Glock) is designed to be concealed. It is regarded by the criminal fraternity as an extremely attractive and much sought-after weapon. It is a weapon favoured by terrorists.
“It is reliable and it is easy to maintain. It is so small that its unseemly destructive qualities are difficult to imagine and it carries an inordinate amount of ammunition.”
Tariq, of Thornton Road, Bradford, and Arif, of Mannheim Road, Bradford, were each jailed for 24 years after pleading guilty to possessing firearms with intent to endanger life.
Four other Bradford men admitted the same charge. Mudasser Iqbal, 29, of Dalby Avenue, was sentenced to 12 years in prison; Feroz Khan, 24, of Killinghall Road, got 10 years; and Sakawat Shah, 29, of Salt Street, and Mohsin Hussain, 29, of Toller Lane, were each given eight years.
Akbar Sultan, 24, Baring Avenue, Bradford, and Raees Khan, 33, of Folkestone Road, Bradford, each received seven-year sentences after the jury found them guilty of conspiring to import firearms.
Det Insp Gary Curnow, of West Yorkshire Police’s organised crime group, said firearms importation was “extremely rare”.
“This was an unusual case involving a highly organised enterprise of criminals,” he said. “Tariq and Arif demonstrated a concerning determination to continue to import weapons despite police intervention.
“This case has been a fine example of partnership working at its best, on a local, national and international scale.”
Gun hoard uncovered by chance discovery: Page 13.