A man who skipped bail has been found guilty in his absence of attempting to buy two hand grenades and Semtex explosive from an undercover FBI agent on the dark web.
Mohammed Humza, 29, of Watford, failed to turn up for his Old Bailey trial on Monday and was suspected of travelling to Kashmir in Pakistan.
The trial went ahead in his absence and Humza, who was represented by a lawyer, was found guilty of attempting to possess explosive substances for unlawful purposes between July 14 and September 5 2016.
The jury had deliberated for six hours and eight minutes to reach their decision by a majority of 11 to one.
Mrs Justice McGowan said sentencing would be put off for more information about Humza’s reasons for wanting a grenade, and whether or not it for was terrorism.
She told jurors Humza’s current whereabouts was a “mystery”.
She said: “He may have left the country. On the other hand, he may be saying he has left the country in order to deter police from trying to find him.
“I have to consider before I pass sentence whether or not I can establish what purpose Mr Humza tried to get this grenade for.
“At the moment I simply don’t know and it will come as no surprise for you to know if it is for a terrorist purpose that puts it into a different category for sentence.”
Jurors were told how Humza, going by the username mh.nn243, had approached an FBI agent posing as a seller on dark web trading site 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, mh.nn243 asked: “What’s the best price you can do for 2 grenades with postage to the UK?”
The user 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”.
The court heard that after this conversation, the user went quiet and the deal was not completed, but he approached the officer again in early August.
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.
The pair eventually agreed a deal for two grenades and mh.nn243 placed cryptocurrency funds on escrow (via a third party) at 9.03pm on August 6.
Prosecutor Benjamin Holt said: “This is not just idle chat – mh.nn243 has actually made payment for the two grenades.”
The court heard the grenades were to be sent to Humza’s address in Fuller Road, Watford, but under his neighbour’s name.
Mr Holt said: “It is not a great disguise, I accept, but it is, we say, the user getting the product delivered to his home address, albeit with his neighbour’s name on the package.”
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 Humza 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 before the trial got under way, Mr Holt described attempts to track Humza down.
Officers spoke to his estranged wife in Watford who said she had not spoken to him since last Saturday and he “comes and goes as he pleases to see his children”.
The mother of three said she did not have a contact number for him and was unaware he was facing a trial.
Further inquiries revealed Humza was in a relationship with another woman who suggested he was out of the country in Pakistan, possibly Kashmir.
His parents and in-laws in Birmingham said they had not seen him since June, the court heard.
The court heard that Humza had previous convictions for fraud and theft, but no terror-related offences.
Detective Chief Inspector Trevor Davidson said: “This has been a lengthy investigation which involved extensive work with international law enforcement colleagues to ensure Humza was convicted.
“Our focus is now on ensuring Humza is located and faces the sentence he will be given, and I would urge anyone with information to contact police immediately if they see him or have any information on his whereabouts.”
Humza is described as 5ft 8in, Asian and of medium build. In addition to Watford, he is known to have links to Birmingham, Luton and Rochdale.