More ex-cops now part of Western Cape guns-to-gangs saga

Twenty-three suspects, including an alleged 28s gang boss and three former police officers, now face charges in what has become known as the guns-to-gangs saga, which continues to rattle the Western Cape.

The saga is part of a massive national investigation centered around firearms, which were meant to be kept or destroyed by police. Instead, they ended up in the hands of gangsters in the province. It also involved firearm licences.

News24 understands that the 23 suspects - including the alleged gang boss, several of his associates and the three former police officers - are expected in a Khayelitsha court on Thursday.

They face charges of corruption, fraud, possession of firearms and ammunition, and some under the Prevention of Organised Crime Act. A total of 109 offences are linked to this case.

Also read: Massive guns-to-gangs case crops up in Modack car theft matter

Alleged 28s gang boss Ralph Stanfield - who was wounded in a drive-by shooting in Johannesburg in July 2017, in what was suspected to have been linked to underworld developments - was an accused in the investigation.

In June 2014, Stanfield, his wife Nicole and his sister were arrested. The Central Firearm Registry was also raided, resulting in three police officers – Priscilla Mangyani, Billy April and Mary Cartwright – being detained.

The charges against these accused were provisionally withdrawn in October 2016.

Project Impi

Police officers Major General Jeremy Vearey and Lieutenant General Peter Jacobs had headed a national gun smuggling investigation, known as Project Impi.

Launched in December 2013, it was the biggest probe of its kind in South Africa. It included looking into the import and export of illegal firearms, and whether weapons were being stockpiled by right wing groups to be used against the state.

But in June 2016, Vearey, who was deputy provincial commissioner for detective services, was suddenly shifted to a position he had previously filled - commander of the Cape Town cluster of police stations. 

Jacobs, who headed the province's crime intelligence unit, was appointed Wynberg cluster commander.

The two approached the Cape Town Labour Court challenginng their redeployments, which they believed derailed Project Impi. In an affidavit in the matter, Jacobs said: "Investigation into criminal gang activity in the Western Cape revealed that corrupt officials were both supplying illegal firearms and illegally providing firearm licences to gang leaders such as [alleged 28s gang boss] Ralph Stanfield."

At least 2 000 firearms sold to gangsters

Jacobs has subsequently been appointed as ead of police’s crime intelligence nationally, while Vearey has returned as deputy provincial commissioner for detective services.

The two were instrumental in the arrest of Chris Prinsloo, an ex-police colonel now serving a jail sentence.

Prinsloo previously said he had sold at least 2 000 firearms, meant to be destroyed by police, to Rondebosch businessman Irshaad Laher, who then allegedly sold these to gangsters.
Prinsloo, Laher and Vereeniging arms dealer Alan Raves were arrested as part of Project Impi.

This investigation had established that at least 261 children were murdered or wounded, between 2010 and 2016, with guns smuggled from within the police to gangsters.

About 1 066 murders were also believed to have been carried out with the firearms, of which about 1 200 were never accounted for.

Laher and Raves are expected back in the Western Cape High Court on June 8, when pre-trial proceedings are expected to resume.

Police spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Andre Traut confirmed to News24 on Wednesday that they were scheduled to appear in court on Thursday. He provided no further details.

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