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Press release4 May 2021European Anti-Fraud Office4 min read

Spain: Joint Tax Agency and National Police operation dismantled the first illegal workshop for printing 3D weapons

Partner's press release


  • In the operation, a person who was arrested had a clandestine workshop where he assembled firearms whose frame he had previously made using a 3D printer.
  • In the searches carried out have been seized, among other effects, more than 30 manuals, two 3D printers, 11 filament bovines for 3D printer, numerous computer devices used for the manufacture of parts of weapons, 19 frames of short weapon made by 3D printing and various fundamental parts; also have been located two taser pistols, five knives, a machete, a katana and objects with supremacist symbology.
  • In view of the discovery of different chemical substances, susceptible to be used for the elaboration of explosives, the intervention of a TEDAX-NRBQ team has been necessary in order to neutralize them and of a team of canine guides specialized in the detection of this type of substances.
  • Within the framework of the EMPACT-FIREARMS platform, Spain is leading at European level the operational action aimed at defining the new emerging threats in the field of illicit arms trafficking, with the participation of the General Intelligence and Customs Surveillance Commission of the Tax Agency with regard to the use of parcels in this field.
  • An international conference is scheduled to discuss in depth the three-dimensional manufacture of weapons and Customs will co-lead the EU Customs Cooperation Group's action on illicit arms trafficking in the period 2020-2021.

April 18, 2021 – Officials of the Tax Agency and agents of the National Police have dismantled the first illegal 3D weapons manufacturing workshop in Spain after an investigation carried out by the Customs Surveillance of the Tax Agency, the General Commissariat of Information and the Provincial Information Brigade of Tenerife that has led to the arrest in Santa Cruz de Tenerife of a person for his alleged participation in the crimes of illegal possession of weapons and storage of explosives.

During the searches, two 3D printers, 11 spools of 3D printer filament and numerous computer devices used for manufacturing were seized. In addition, 19 short gun frames made by 3D printing, nine magazines, two silencers, two unnumbered short gun slides, two pieces for rifling barrels, two firing pins, a replica AR-15 Airsoft assault rifle, a carbine with telescopic sight, several metal tubes to make barrels, a holographic scope, a plastic mold to make frames and various parts of short weapons (rods, sights, sight notches, triggers, springs, hammer, etc.) were also seized...).

The agents also located two taser pistols, five knives, a machete, a katana, and various objects with supremacist symbolism (two flags representing a triskel and a gun holster with the emblem of the German National Socialist Army).

Also, of special importance for the investigators was the detection of more than 30 manuals, among them: a "terrorist manual", urban guerrilla, military, homemade explosives manufacturing, on the use and handling of firearms and the manufacture of firearms through 3D printing.

Finally, different chemical substances susceptible of being used in the elaboration of explosive devices such as black powder, aluminium, nitrate, acetone, etc. were seized, which required the intervention of a TEDAX-NRBQ team for their neutralisation and a team of canine guides specialised in the detection of this type of substances.

The operation, carried out on September 14, 2020 has been directed by the Court of Instruction number THREE of Santa Cruz de Tenerife, which has maintained secrecy of summary to date.

First illegal 3D weapons workshop in Spain 

The investigation began when the agents specialized in the matter detected the existence of a person who, in an illicit way, made purchases through the Internet of essential parts of firearms and explosive substances.

After analyzing all the information obtained, the corresponding operative device was established, carrying out four searches in the city of Tenerife.

When the agents entered one of the premises they could see how one of the 3D printers was operational and fully functioning. A short gun frame was being printed and was almost finished.

The detainee also had a large number of essential parts, all of them complementary for assembly to the frame manufactured in 3D. In this way, the arrested person was able to completely manufacture a short firearm.

European working group on combating emerging forms of crime 

Additive manufacturing - known as three-dimensional 3D printing - is a disruptive technology that exponentially increases the danger of the proliferation of firearms by facilitating access to them for criminal or terrorist groups. In October 2019, in Germany, a terrorist attack was committed against a Jewish synagogue, in which other weapons and explosives, a rifle made with a 3D printer was used.  

The General Intelligence Commissioner's Office is at the forefront of the fight against these new criminal modalities and currently an Inspector from that Office representing Spain is leading a working group of European police forces, within the EMPACT FIREARMS platform, dedicated to combating emerging threats in this field and, specifically, the response to the threat posed by the three-dimensional printing of firearms. Among the activities planned in this area, an International Congress on Firearms and Emerging Threats in the 21st Century is scheduled to be held at the National Police's Canillas Police Complex (Madrid).

Likewise, the Customs and Excise Department of the Tax Agency, through Customs Surveillance, co-leads, within the framework of the EMPACT FIREARMS platform, the operational action on illicit arms trafficking through parcels.

This operation highlights the synergies created by the joint work between customs police forces and the Ministry of Home Affairs, which Spain promotes within the EU through the Action on illicit arms trafficking of the Customs Cooperation Group of the Council of the Union led by the Customs and Excise Department for the period 2020-2021.

Read the original press release in Spanish: Desmantelado el primer taller ilegal de impresión de armas 3D en España


Publication date
4 May 2021
European Anti-Fraud Office
News type
  • Partner's press release