TORONTO - A gun-smuggling operation between Canada and Nevada that transported weaponry in containers marked ''truck parts'' has been broken up, police announced Tuesday.
The smuggling ring operated in Toronto, Montreal and Reno, Nevada, according to a Toronto police statement that said more than 1,700 M1 Garand semi-automatic rifles were seized, along with more than 20,000 M1 firing mechanisms, 39 banned high capacity M1 magazines, and three machine guns.
Police arrested Ira Mieteen, 38, of Toronto, and issued a Canadian-wide arrest warrant for a second man, Melvin Bishop of Reno, Nevada, on a charge of conspiring to knowingly export firearms without authorization.
Mieteen also was charged with gun trafficking, possessing a prohibited high capacity ammunition magazine and unsafely storing weapons and ammunition, police said.
A U.S. grand jury has been convened in Reno for Mieteen and Bishop, along with a third suspect who lives in Reno, the police statement said. The name of the third suspect was not disclosed.
The charges followed a year-long investigation of cross-border gun smuggling that began when Canadian firearms regulators in New Brunswick notified police of a large shipment of weapons.
Police discovered that some Toronto businesses were illegally shipping firing mechanisms for M-1 rifles into the United States and marking them as ''truck parts.''
An operation involving U.S. and Canadian Customs services and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms intercepted one of the illegal shipments in Atlanta, Georgia, then made the link to a licensed gun dealer in Reno, the police statement said.
Search warrants executed in Toronto, Reno and Montreal led to the seizing of the firearms and arrest warrants, according to police. The stores searched were Mel Bishop Enterprises in Toronto and Reno, along with Century International Arms in Montreal and King Sol of Toronto, the statement said.
The arrests follow a U.S. decision in February to suspend the export of some guns and ammunition to Canada because of a jump in the number of requests for firearm export licenses.
There was no immediate connection between the gun-smuggling ring uncovered by police and the U.S. decision to halt some weapons exports to Canada.
White House spokesman Joe Lockhart said in February that exports were suspended after U.S. State Department officials who monitor gun sales to Canada noticed a ''large, increased surge'' in requests for licenses to export handguns, rifles and ammunition.
The United States had started requiring such licenses nine months earlier. Canadian officials said they were unaware of a reason for the increase in license requests.
Canada limits possession of handguns to collectors, target shooters and those who can demonstrate a need of guns to protect their lives.