Local charity man raided

2008-02-27 00:00

A TIP-off received by the South African Police Service’s Organised Crime Unit yesterday morning led to the raiding of the Merrivale home of prominent resident Rick Baratta.

Police allegedly searched the house acting on information that narcotics and illegal firearms were kept at the property. Seven of the 26 firearms found on his premises were confiscated for licence verification, police said.

Baratta (77) was born in the U.S., but has lived in SA for about 15 years.

He and his wife Elisabeth are known in the international community for their involvement in Rotary and community upliftment projects such as the Sweetwaters Quilt Guild, which has generated a lot of funding and international interest.

Baratta is a member of the Hilton and Howick Rotary clubs.

The raid comes amid charges of house-breaking and theft laid against Baratta by a woman he believes to be behind the raid.

Speaking to The Witness, the woman, who did not want to be named ahead of the court case expected to proceed on Friday, has made serious allegations of misconduct against him.

She alleged that the 30 women and two men involved in the Sweetwaters project received little to nothing from the project and she has since helped draw up a petition with regard to the allegations.

Baratta told The Witness yesterday that he is a victim of harassment and vindictiveness.

He said there has been a long history of ill feeling between himself and the woman, and dismissed all allegations against him as “blatant lies”.

Baratta feels his reputation is at stake and said he is considering suing for damages.

He said all firearms found in his possession were licensed and had paperwork on importation.

He said that he had extensive work as a firearms trainer in the U.S. and in SA, training the SAPS and various other independent entities such as corporate, casino and school securities.

It is believed that Baratta has in previous years been closely linked to the Hilton community policing forum. Sources said that he worked in the U.S. as a policeman before coming to SA as a consultant for the SAPS.

Baratta was also described as “dynamic” and energetic by sources.

Rotary district governor elect, Hennie de Bruin, praised Baratta’s achievements in helping the disadvantaged.

“He has done amazing work in the Sweetwaters community and has established a crèche, and a quilting project … As far as any other things are concerned we take the view that people are innocent until proven guilty.”


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