In November, a UK court convicted 19-year-old Gurtej Randhawa of importing an explosive device from the darknet with the intention to do harm. Months later, after a sentencing hearing at Birmingham Crown Court, UK’s National Crime Agency announced that the Wolverhampton teenager had been sentenced to eight years in prison. According to the NCA’s announcement, Randhawa used a bitcoin wallet to purchase the explosive as part of a plot to ensure his future with a romantic partner.
The NCA discovered that Randhawa had planned to use the bomb to end the lives of his mother and father. According to a statement, the teenager’s mother had discovered that Randhawa had been romantically involved with a girl she disapproved of. In order to protect the relationship his mother wanted to end, Randhawa purchased a Vehicle Borne Explosive Device (VBED) from a darknet marketplace. During one of the teenager’s first court appearances, he pleaded guilty to attempting to import explosives. The NCA and other investigators knew that Randhawa had purchased the bomb, but did not know of Randhawa’s plan.
Later, investigators found that the Wolverhampton teen had planned to kill his parents with the bomb—in order to save his relationship with the girl his mother disapproved of. UK authorities then filed charges that reflected the severity of the recently discovered information. Birmingham Crown Court then found Randhawa guilty of attempting to import an explosive device with intent to cause harm. When UK authorities intercepted a package containing a live explosive, they replaced the device with an inert replica and sent the package to Randhawa.
When the teenager opened the package, the authorities did not immediately storm his house and place him under arrest. Instead, they watched at a distance until they saw Randhawa “test” the explosive device. They never revealed how Randhawa tested something he believed to have been a “live explosive.”
Andy Young, from the CPS International Justice and Organised Crime Division, said that the suspect “attempted to purchase explosives which could have resulted in deaths or serious injuries had they been used. He added that the teenager had “denied he planned to use the explosives to cause injury but the CPS demonstrated to the jury that this was a lie and Randhawa was observed attempting to test his device before being arrested.” In January 2018, Randhawa entered a courtroom, knowing the next few years of his life were in the hands of the UK legal system. The NCA had called him a threat to society, and a statement has set the tone for the inherent prison sentence handed down.
The court ruled that Randhawa would spend the next eight years in prison. “Randhawa had [accessed the deep] web in an attempt to avoid detection but instead he is now serving a significant prison sentence,” Young said, casually warning darknet users not to purchase weapons on the darknet—something authorities believe darknet market users dream about doing.