10 things you should know about the national gun smuggling investigation

Cape Town - A gun smuggling investigation, which many sources say is the biggest ever in South Africa, has revealed how stolen police and military firearms were channelled to gangsters, and out of the country.

Here are 10 things, based on court documents, you should know about the mammoth probe: 

1. In 2013, police officers in Cape Town noticed firearms, meant to be with police, were in circulation illegally in the Western Cape. Police ballistic experts found each gun had its identification number filed off in the exact same way. It was suspected that one person was altering the guns.

2. The investigation into gun smuggling, named Project Impi, was then launched in December 2013 in the Western Cape by police officers Major-General Jeremy Vearey and Major-General Peter Jacobs. It went on to become a national investigation, which included probing the import and export of illicit firearms.

3. It is back in focus because on Thursday the Cape Town Labour Court found in favour of Vearey and Jacobs, who felt their sudden transfers from their positions within the police in June 2016 were unfair and politically motivated, which police denied. The court set their transfers, which they believe jeopardised the investigation, aside. 

4. Vearey and Jacobs say that, instead of allocating more resources to the investigation, police did the opposite.

5. Arrests so far include that of ex-police colonel Chris Prinsloo, now serving a jail sentence, who previously said he had sold at least 2 000 firearms to Rondebosch businessman Irshaad "Hunter" Laher, who allegedly paid him to steal guns meant for destruction.

Laher and Vereeniging arms dealer Alan Raves are the accused in a case linked to the alleged selling of firearms, meant to have been destroyed by police, to gangsters around the Western Cape.

6. Some 1 066 murders were committed with the stolen police guns. 261 children in the Western Cape were shot between 2010 and 2016 with guns identified in the Project Impi investigation.

7. Crime Intelligence officers, specialist gang investigation detectives, and designated firearm officers, formed part of the investigation. The SA National Defence Force was involved in Project Impi, as it emerged that guns were stolen from military bases and were being distributed.

8. Aside from police smuggling guns to gangsters, Project Impi uncovered that illicit firearms were being smuggled out of South Africa. It also focused on, among others, certain firearm dealers and police at the Central Firearm Registry. 

9. Right wing groups were also in focus, as Project Impi uncovered that these groups could be stockpiling firearms to be used against the state.

10. Police investigators, including Vearey, were worried about the SA Police Service being held criminally liable for crimes committed with the stolen police firearms.

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