VANCOUVER, B.C., - Police have seized nearly 200 guns in a remote area of Interior British Columbia, arresting a man who investigators allege was purchasing assault rifles and other weapons legally and then selling them to the highest bidder, possibly to gang members and other criminals.
The province's Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit — an RCMP-led team that targets organized crime — announced the seizure Thursday, almost a week after raiding the home of a 63-year-old man in Tatla Lake, more than 300 kilometres north of Vancouver.
Police arrested the man last Friday and executed a search warrant at his home after receiving a tip two months earlier.
Investigators said they seized 183 guns, tens of thousands of rounds of ammunition, and illegal high-capacity magazine, marking what is likely the single-largest seizure in the unit's history.
Sgt. Lindsey Houghton said the man, whose name wasn't released, had no criminal record and no known links to gangs or organized crime. The man was licensed to purchased and possess the weapons, said Houghton.
"The overwhelming majority — in fact almost all of the guns — are legal in Canada," Houghton said in an interview.
"The illegal part of this is his subsequent reselling of them on the black market to anyone with cash in hand."
The high-capacity magazines were also purchased legally, said Houghton, but they were then modified to expand the number of rounds they can hold. Prospective buyers could place custom orders, Houghton alleged.
Houghton said investigators are still not sure precisely who was buying the guns, but he said they have their theories.
"We think there was a strong likelihood that some of these weapons would have made their way into the hands of gang members and criminals around the province," he said.
The man was subsequently released from custody as Crown counsel considers potential charges. Until he's charged, police are not releasing his name.
The man was described as a long-time resident of Tatla Lake, a tiny community in the province's Chilcotin region, about 150 kilometres west of Williams Lake.
Houghton acknowledged it's unusual to uncover an alleged gun trafficking operation, especially on such a massive scale, in a far-flung area of the province.
"For someone to be doing this in such a remote region in B.C. is very odd," he said.
"Most people would think that gun trafficking happened in the Lower Mainland, but that's not the case in this instance."