Two men were both jailed for 12 years yesterday for their role in an attempt to smuggle an arsenal of firearms, explosives and detonators into Britain.
Their arrests followed a major investigation by anti-terrorist police who feared the explosives and detonators could have been made into bombs.
Detectives ultimately found no link to terrorism but believe organised criminals might have been planning to use the weapons in robberies and gun crime.
Earl Marcus Bailey (28) of Weavers Walk, Bell Green, Coventry, and another man who cannot be named for legal reasons, were charged with conspiracy to possess an explosive substance and conspiracy to possess prohibited weapons and ammunition.
They were both found guilty at Birmingham Crown Court and each jailed for 12 years in total.
Deputy Assistant Commissioner Peter Clarke, head of the Metropolitan Police's Anti-Terrorist Branch, said the inquiry had been "extensive and painstaking".
He said: "While we did not detect any terrorist link, our inquiries uncovered an international conspiracy to import a horrifying collection of weapons and explosives into the UK."
HM Customs & Excise officers found the arsenal after a tip-off led them to stop a yellow Ford recovery-type vehicle at Felixstowe Port in the evening of Sunday, April 21, 2002.
A VW Golf loaded onto the recovery vehicle was searched by customs officers for several hours but initially nothing suspicious was found.
Once the Golf was impounded and x-rayed, however, firearms in full working order, ammunition and explosives were discovered concealed inside.
The seizure included ten handguns, three machine guns, more than 1,000 bullets, bags containing plastic explosive, two detonators, two electrical transceivers, nine hand grenades and eight propelled grenades.
It was one of the largest hauls of its kind at the time and the value of the weapons was estimated as being between £12,000 and £14,000.
Police inquiries later revealed that the ten handguns were among 80 stolen from a firearms dealership in Amsterdam in February 2002.
Inquiries by Anti-Terrorist Branch detectives in Britain and Holland working closely with the Dutch police, HM Customs & Excise, the National Crime Squad and West Midlands Police led them to Bailey.
He had hired someone to collect the vehicles and deliver them to a salvage yard in Coventry for a fee of £1,700, telling him the cars had to be moved quickly.
Bailey contacted the man regularly during the trip and on his return and had also visited Amsterdam on a number of occasions.
The driver was to travel from Harwich to the Hook of Holland and onto a car break-er's yard near Maastricht to collect the vehicles but they in fact travelled from Felixstowe to Rotterdam Europort.
They eventually collected the VW Golf, after getting lost on their way to Maastricht, and Bailey rang them again on the return leg to find out why the shipment was overdue.
On April 22, Bailey was told in another phone call that the Golf had been impounded and he never made contact again.
A spokesman for HM Revenue & Customs said: "We have worked closely with the police and hope that this serves as a stern deterrent and reminder that our detection skills are second to none."