Seven people have now been charged as a result of a National Crime Agency investigation into the suspected importation of firearms.

Officers seized 22 automatic assault rifles, nine Skorpion machine pistols, 58 magazines, two silencers and around 1,000 live rounds of ammunition from a van at Cuxton Marina on Tuesday, 11 August.

Eight people – seven men and a woman all aged between 24 and 58 – were detained by the NCA’s Armed Operations Unit (AOU) and Kent Police Tactical Firearms Command.

Three men and a woman were arrested near the A228 in Cuxton, while three men were detained at a location in Orpington and one at an address in Swanley. The man arrested at Swanley has been released on bail. The others have been charged with importing and possessing firearms.

Motor cruiser tracked

The guns were seized in holdalls and a suitcase, which also contained numerous magazines and ammunition, from a van as it left Cuxton Marina. It followed the arrival of the MV Albernina, a motor cruiser, which had travelled to the UK from France.

The operation to track the vessel involved the NCA working closely with Border Force and the National Maritime Information Centre (NMIC).

Deputy Director Graham Gardner from the NCA said: ‘This was an extremely significant seizure, the largest of its kind in the UK. I’ve no doubt that these weapons would have ended up in criminal hands and it goes without saying the risk they would have posed to the public.

‘We are still in the early stages of a significant investigation which will continue for some time.  Through the excellent work and action taken alongside Kent Police we have made a huge step in protecting the public in Kent and further afield.’

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The seven have been remanded in custody and are expected to appear via video link at Medway Magistrates Court today, Friday 14 August. They are:

David Kenneth PAYNE, DOB 28/08/1972, Rochester Road, Halling, Rochester
Jennifer Katherine ARTHY, 16/11/1973, Rochester Road, Halling, Rochester
John Stephen SMALE, 27/04/1957, Rochester Road, Halling, Rochester
Christopher John OWEN, 23/09/1985, Bush Road, Cuxton, Rochester
Harry David SHILLING, 11/04/1993, 78 Hart Dyke Road, Swanley
Michael George DEFRAINE, 03/10/1985, Franklin Road, Bexleyheath
Richard RYE, 06/06/1991, Lime Road, Swanley

A 28-year-old man from Swanley has been released on bail pending further enquiries until 24 September.