Man On The Run After Failed Attempt To Buy Explosives On The Dark Web
Father-of-three Mohammed Humza, 29, of Watford, failed to turn up for his Old Bailey trial in October and was suspected of travelling to the Pakistani part of Kashmir.
He was found guilty in his absence of attempting to possess an explosive substance for unlawful purposes between July 14 and September 5 2016.
On Friday, prosecutor Ben Holt told the court 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.
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
Mrs Justice McGowan
In mitigation, Francis McGrath suggested Humza’s criminal past had involved offences of dishonesty rather than violence.
Sentencing Humza to five years in jail, Mrs Justice McGowan said the deal with the undercover FBI agent had been “doomed to fail”.
But she said: “The fact is he tried to get that device and he did everything in his power to achieve that aim.”
During the trial, jurors were told how Humza, going by the username mh.nn243, had approached an FBI agent posing as a seller on darknet market AlphaBay in summer 2016.
The site, which has since been closed down, was popular for trading illegal items including drugs, firearms and other weapons.
In a message to the agent in July 2016, Humza asked: “What’s the best price you can do for 2 grenades with postage to the UK?”
He haggled the agent down from 125 US dollars each to 115 US dollars by offering to buy four grenades.
In the exchange, the pair discussed the price of delivery to Watford and Hertfordshire. After this conversation, the user went quiet and the deal was not completed, but he approached the officer again in early August 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 placed cryptocurrency funds on escrow (via a third party) at 9.03pm on August 6.
The court heard the grenades were to be sent to Humza’s address in Fuller Road, Watford, but under his neighbour’s name. After being told by the agent that he was out of stock of grenades and having his cryptocurrency refunded, the user attempted to buy Semtex and a fuse detonator.
It was not in dispute that the dark web deals took place, but it was said on Humza’s behalf that he denied being the person in control of the mh.nn243 user name.
Mrs Justice McGowan did not explain the reasons for Humza’s absence during the trial, only telling the jury: “Mr Humza has chosen not to attend his trial.”
In legal argument, the court heard that police had tried to track Humza down, speaking to his estranged wife, girlfriend, parents and in-laws. The court heard that he had previous convictions for fraud and theft, but no terror-related offences.
Humza is described as 5ft 8in, Asian and of medium build. He is known to have links to Birmingham, Luton and Rochdale.