Police break arms and forgery network: Several people are held after 20-month undercover operation. Terry Kirby reports

SEVERAL people were being questioned last night after detectives said they had smashed an extensive criminal network supplying semi-automatic firearms, ammunition, knives, explosives, huge amounts of counterfeit currencies and forged documents to the rest of the underworld.

Commander Roy Penrose, head of the South East Regional Crime Squad, who led the 20-month -police undercover infiltration of the London-based network, codenamed Operation Mensa, said yesterday: 'Their motto was 'If you want it, we can get it'.'

Operation Mensa culminated early yesterday in a series of raids by 150 regional crime squad detectives in London, the Home Counties, Dorset, Devon and the Thames Valley.

Last night, 27 people were being questioned at several different police stations and police said the operation was still continuing.

Mr Penrose said that although the criminal network was organised and involved people who earned 'vast amounts' of money through crime, it was a loosely structured affair and not an hierarchical body like the Mafia. 'These people came together on an entrepreneurial basis to fund their lifestyles,' he said.

At a farm in the Dorset village of Toller Porcorum, police uncovered what may have been the network's arsenal, a store of more than 40 automatic and semi-automatic weapons, large amounts of ammunition, flick-knives and daggers. The firearms included two AK47 Kalashnikov assault rifles and a flint- lock rifle. A 40-year-old man was arrested.

Acting Det Supt Tony Rogers, who led the Dorset operation said the weapons were still being examined and categorised, but that he had 'no doubt whatever' that they were destined for the hands of criminals.

In London other raids uncovered a Second World War German-made Schmeisser sub-machine gun, shotguns and ammunition, 2kg (4.4lbs) of PE4 military-style plastic explosive and detonators.

Mr Penrose said the PE4 was being offered to the underworld as samples for a sale of two tons at a price of pounds 3,000, although it was believed that the criminals did not actually have the explosive and were involved in a confidence trick. The explosives and detonators are not believed to have any terrorist links - the IRA normally favours Semtex or home- made explosives.

Detectives believe the counterfeiting and forgery operation was one of the biggest of its kind ever discovered. More than pounds 1m in forged pounds 50 notes - which had been sold for pounds 30 each on the black market - and dollars 200,000 ( pounds 100,000) in dollars 100 bills were recovered earlier and a further pounds 500,000 in counterfeit sterling and dollars 50,000, printing plates and other plates for Danish Kroner were found yesterday.

Among the large amounts of forged documents seized were MOT certificates, birth certificates, disabled parking badges, building society cheques and travellers cheques. The forged cash and other documents are said to be of extremely high quality and police believe many notes are in circulation.

Police also recovered stolen vehicles, including a JCB excavator. Mr Penrose said: 'You can never be sure you have cut out cancer, but we are happy that we have made a severe dent in the counterfeiting fraternity.'

News
A Brazilian wandering spider
news

World's most lethal spider found under a bunch of bananas

News
people
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in the win over QPR
footballInternet reacts to miss shocker for Liverpool striker
Voices
Sol Campbell near his home in Chelsea
voices
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
i100
News
Kimi the fox cub
newsBurberry under fire from animal rights group - and their star, Kimi
Sport
Fans of Palmeiras looks dejected during the match between Palmeiras and Santos
footballPalmeiras fan killed trying to 'ambush' bus full of opposition supporters
Arts and Entertainment
filmsIt's nearly a wrap on Star Wars: Episode 7, producer reveals
Life and Style
fashion
News
i100
News
<p>Jonathan Ross</p>
<p>Jonathan Ross (or Wossy, as he’s affectionately known) has been on television and radio for an extraordinarily long time, working on a seat in the pantheon of British presenters. Hosting Friday Night with Jonathan Ross for nine years, Ross has been in everything from the video game Fable to Phineas and Ferb. So it’s probably not so surprising that Ross studied at Southampton College of Art (since rebranded Southampton Solent), a university known nowadays for its media production courses.</p>
<p>However, after leaving Solent, Ross studied History at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies, now part of the UCL, a move that was somewhat out of keeping with the rest of his career. Ross was made a fellow of the school in 2006 in recognition of his services to broadcasting.</p>
TV

Rumours that the star wants to move on to pastures new

News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
The cast of Downton Abbey indulge in some racing at a Point to Point
tvNew pictures promise a day at the races and a loved-up Lady Rose
News
people

Comedian says he 'never laughed as hard as I have writing with Rik'

Arts and Entertainment
Tim Wonnacott dancing the pasadoble
TVStrictly Come Dancing The Result
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

1st Line Technical Support Engineer

£22000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Thame i...

Graduate Project Manager

£25000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsf...

Drama Teacher

£110 - £135 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: We are seeking a Drama tea...

Science teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: We are seeking a languages...

Day In a Page

Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album
Hugh Bonneville & Peter James: 'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'

How We Met: Hugh Bonneville & Peter James

'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's heavenly crab dishes don't need hours of preparation

Bill Granger's heavenly crab recipes

Scared off by the strain of shelling a crab? Let a fishmonger do the hard work so you can focus on getting the flavours right
Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

After a remarkable conversion from reckless defender to prolific striker, Monaco's ace says he wants to make his loan deal at Old Trafford permanent
Terry Venables: Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England

Terry Venables column

Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England
The Inside Word: Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past

Michael Calvin's Inside Word

Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past