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Police bust weapons syndicate linked to US

AAP logoAAP 2/09/2016 Helen Velissaris

Tracking the origin of an assault rifle used in a Victorian armed robbery has led police to seize more than 300 guns and weapon parts imported from the US by an Australian crime syndicate.

Six fully-automatic assault rifles and 96 semi-automatic handgun frames bound for Australia were intercepted by US authorities in June.

They were allegedly hidden in a consignment with a false bottom.

Australian police on Wednesday raided eight properties in Victoria and four in NSW.

They arrested two men and seized 19 handguns, various parts and 10 kilograms of ammunition.

Overall during the joint commonwealth and state multi-agency operation 300 firearms were seized.

Many of the firearms came from a registered gun seller, Victoria Police Assistant Commissioner Steve Fontana told reporters on Friday.

"This gun dealer had a large number of guns but also we seized a number of weapons that we're alleging were illegal," he said.

During the operation, which involved the AFP's national anti-gang squad and Victoria and NSW police, investigators realised a consignment of 11 assault rifles had also been trafficked into Australia.

Only four have been recovered to date, Mr Fontana said.

"These (11) weapons are not used for duck hunting or pig shooting - these are are assault rifles for killing people," he said.

"They've been used in armed robberies, they've been used in drive-by shootings and a whole other range of offences."

A 63-year-old NSW man has been charged with two counts of attempting to traffic firearms and four counts of importing prohibited firearms while a 44-year-old Whittington man has been charged with one count of possessing an unregistered automatic weapons.

Federal Justice Minister Michael Keenan on Friday said he would be introducing legislation to parliament next week to increase the jail terms of people convicted of trafficking firearms.

The coalition hopes to increase the minimum sentence to five years and the maximum to 20 years, which is double the current maximum penalty.

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