Attempts were made to buy guns on the ‘dark web’ for alleged use in an ongoing gangland feud in Carrickfergus, the High Court has been told.
Prosecutors revealed that police posed as an online arms dealer in an operation that led to three men being accused of a plot to buy Glock pistols.
Details emerged as bail was refused to one of those arrested last month.
Thomas Morgan, 41, of Pinewood Avenue in the Co Antrim town, faces a charge of conspiracy to possess firearms in suspicious circumstances.
Crown lawyer Fiona O’Kane claimed one of his co-accused agreed to buy two pistols for £2,900 from an apparent trader on underground sites accessed through the dark web.
The handover was to take place at a meeting in Belfast on February 17, the court heard.
But with police having set up the fake arms-selling operation, two of the defendants were arrested on that day.
Morgan was detained two days later following examination of mobile phone contact with one of the co-accused.
In one text message he allegedly stated: “We want as many as he can supply, but we need to check things over before we hand over cash.”
He denied any involvement in trying to acquire guns, claiming he had been helping the co-accused deal with his drug abuse.
According to the prosecution, however, the alleged attempt to buy weapons is connected to a continued feud between two rival gangs in Carrickfergus.
“This was the purpose behind obtaining these firearms,” Mrs O’Kane contended.
She told the court other guns have been seized and people forced from their homes due to the dispute.
Claiming Morgan is linked to the situation, the barrister said police patrolling the town last year stopped him seven times.
Since 2014 he has received six threat messages, she added.
John O’Connr, defending, argued that the text message had been a joke rather than anything more sinister.
He insisted that full disclosure of the mobile phone exchanges would confirm his client’s case.
Raising the issue of potential entrapment against the co-accused, Mr O’Connor added that Morgan could be banned from entering Carrickfergus.
Bail was denied, however, due to the perceived risk of flight.
Mr Justice Deeny also pointed out: “Glock sidearms cannot really have anything but a sinister connotation, in the situation where it’s sought to acquire them here.”