GUILTY: Conman Robert Keogh has been sentenced to nine years in prison (NCA)
AN IRISH national has been jailed for nine years after admitting smuggling 60 guns into the country in his car, in what is believed to be the largest seizure of lethal weapons at a UK port.
Robert Keogh, 37, was stopped at 5am on Friday August 2 this year by Border Force officers at the Port of Dover en route from Calais in France.
He had left the UK through Dover on July 24 and when questioned, told officers he was returning from Europe where he had “just been driving around”.
An initial search of his car, a Volkswagen Passat, recovered a Turkish manufactured Zoraki blank firing handgun, with its barrel converted to fire live ammunition.
The gun was concealed in the car’s rear-left quarter panel.
Subsequent searches unearthed a further 59 firearms wrapped in plastic and concealed deep inside the car’s bumper and both rear quarter panels.
DEADLY: A close up of one of the handguns found in the car (NCA)
None of the guns had serial numbers.
Latex gloves, three sim cards and four mobile phones were also recovered.
In interview, Keogh told officers from the National Crime Agency (NCA) that he had a 3,000 Euros gambling debt.
He also claimed the vehicle was out of his control for three days while he was abroad and thought money might have been hidden in it.
Keogh, from Clonee, Dublin, admitted illegally importing firearms when he appeared at Canterbury Crown Court in September.
STASH: Several of the guns as they were found in Keogh's car (NCA)
Andrea Wilson, NCA Head of Regional Investigations, said: “The case against Keogh was so strong he had to plead guilty very early.
“Preventing firearms from coming into the UK is one of the NCA’s most important priorities, it is crucial in our mission to protect the public.
“The firearms belonged to an organised crime group whose plans were significantly disrupted by their loss.
“Without our and Border Force’s intervention, the weapons would have ended up in the criminal marketplace and then on to streets across the UK to be used in extremely violent crimes by extremely dangerous offenders.
CONCEALED: How guns were hidden behind boot lining (NCA)
“We work at home and abroad to prevent the flow of guns trafficked to the UK and Border Force is a vital partner in our work to protect the nation.”
Keogh has previously served time in prison in the Republic of Ireland for fraud for selling non existent tickets to Premiership football matches and an Adele concert.
He has yet to pay back victims a penny, despite being ordered to at court.
Irish Garda believe while in prison organized criminals recruited him to smuggle their guns.