“There is spurious attraction to the dark web."
Mohammed Humza, aged 29, of Watford, was jailed for five years after he used the dark web to try and buy two grenades.
He was sentenced in his absence as he is currently on the run. Humza did not appear throughout his trial in October 2020 and it was believed he had travelled to the Pakistani part of Kashmir.
The Old Bailey heard that Humza, going by the username mh.nn243, had approached an FBI agent posing as a seller on the dark web in July 2016.
Humza had asked the agent: “What’s the best price you can do for 2 grenades with postage to the UK?”
He haggled the agent down from $125 each to $115 by offering to buy four grenades.
The pair discussed delivery prices to Watford and Hertfordshire.
The deal ended up being incomplete but Humza approached the agent again in August of that year.
He said he had been away for a while and using someone else’s laptop but asked to “do 1 custom now” on a fragmentation grenade.
They agreed a deal for two grenades and Humza paid for them using Bitcoin. The items were to be sent to Humza’s address in Fuller Road but under his neighbour’s name.
After being told the grenades were out of stock, Humza attempted to buy Semtex and a fuse detonator.
Humza was arrested in November 2016. Officers searched his home and found several electrical devices which contained evidence of Humza’s intent to purchase the items.
He was released on bail but failed to attend his trial. Humza was found guilty in his absence of attempting to possess an explosive substance for unlawful purposes.
Ben Holt, prosecuting, said Humza remained at large and was still “very much wanted”.
He said the grenades Humza attempted to buy had the potential to cause “indiscriminate harm” if detonated and could have been lethal to people standing nearby.
Mitigating, Francis McGrath said Humza’s criminal past had involved offences of dishonesty rather than violence.
On January 15, 2021, Mrs Justice McGowan said the deal with the undercover FBI agent had been “doomed to fail”.
However, she said: “The fact is he tried to get that device and he did everything in his power to achieve that aim.”
She accepted the need for a deterrent sentence, adding: “There is spurious attraction to the dark web.
“It was, certainly at the time about which the jury heard, surprisingly easy to gain access to the dark web.”
“I accept that may now no longer be the position, nevertheless that would not stop people from trying.”
Police have tried to track down Humza, speaking to his estranged wife, girlfriend, parents and in-laws.
Humza was jailed for five years.
He is described as 5ft 8in, Asian and of medium build. He is known to have links to Birmingham, Luton and Rochdale.
Detective Chief Inspector Trevor Davidson, Head of Investigations at Eastern Region Special Operations Unit (ERSOU), said:
“The sentence given to Humza is a clear indication of the severity of his actions, and our enquiries to locate him are ongoing. We are seeking the public’s help in ensuring he is brought to face the justice he deserves.
“It’s important to note that the offence took place some time ago and he didn’t receive the items that he was trying to buy, however, I would still urge the public not to approach Humza and instead contact police or Crimestoppers immediately.”
Anyone with information on Humza’s whereabouts should call their local police force immediately, or can contact Crimestoppers anonymously by calling 0800 555 111, quoting Operation Footprint.