Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions

Mechanic caught illegally importing machine guns

Year: 
2018-2019
Category: 
Illegal Imports and Exports
Location: 
Victoria

On 23 April 2014, Victoria Police seized a fully automatic Thureon machine gun imported illegally from the United States. It was the first time this type of automatic firearm, which has a cyclic rate of fire of 1,000 rounds of ammunition per minute, had been seized in Australia.

Victoria Police seized another of these machine guns on 3 February 2015, and again on 20 January 2016. In all three cases, the firearms were seized from men who were charged alongside others with trafficking commercial quantities of methamphetamine.

In one of the cases, the offender was also charged with the armed robbery of a cash-in-transit vehicle where approximately $280,000 was stolen, while the other was arrested in possession of another illegal firearm.

Victoria Police contacted the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to help investigate how firearms manufactured by Thureon Defence were imported into Australia.

As a result of the investigation, and with assistance from the Australian Federal Police, Paul Robert Munro was arrested and charged with importing and attempting to import firearms and firearm parts from the United States.

A self-employed motor mechanic specialising in building and importing car engines from the United States, and a former licensed firearms dealer, Munro had hidden firearm parts in false bottoms of car engine crates.

Munro pleaded guilty to four counts of importing tier two goods contrary to s233BAB(5) of the Customs Act 1901 (including 12 automatic rifles, six receivers and 30 handgun frames), and two counts of attempting to import firearm parts with the intention of trafficking contrary to s. 11.1 and 361.2 Criminal Code (Cth) (96 handgun frames and six automatic rifles).

On 8 May 2018, Munro was sentenced to 10 years three months’ jail, to serve a minimum of six years before being eligible for parole. On 6 June 2018, the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions (CDPP) filed an appeal against the sentence on the grounds that it was manifestly inadequate. On 17 April 2019, the Victorian Court of Appeal handed down a judgement upholding the CDPP’s appeal and increased Munro’s sentence to 15 years’ imprisonment with a non-parole period of 11 years. 

The court commented: “Over a period of three and a half years, Munro engaged in persistent, planned, sophisticated offending to bring into Australia mass killing machines the only purpose of which was their use in the threatened or actual taking of human life in the course of criminal activity.”

The matter was investigated and referred by Victoria Police.