'Fatal defects' and 'bullying' claims surface in national guns-to-gangs case

2018-06-08 17:13
Rondebosch businessman Irshaad Laher hides his face as he leaves the high court. (File, Jenna Etheridge, News24)

Rondebosch businessman Irshaad Laher hides his face as he leaves the high court. (File, Jenna Etheridge, News24)

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A firearms dealer who is an accused in, what has become, a massive case involving the alleged selling of firearms to gangsters, believes the State is using lengthy delays to work around major flaws in the matter.

The firearms were meant to have been destroyed by police.

Rondebosch businessman Irshaad "Hunter" Laher and Vereeniging arms dealer Alan Raves are the accused in the case, which has been postponed numerous times and for which a trial date is yet to be set.

The two men appeared in the Western Cape High Court on Friday, where the case was postponed to June 29.

Raves wants the court to rule that there be no further postponements - which the State has asked for - in the case

'Fatal defects', 2 year 10-month postponement

"(Raves) is at a loss to comprehend how he could be arrested and brought to court, only to have his matter postponed for a period of approximately two years and ten months, in order to afford the (State) the opportunity to finalise investigations, and to try and to legally 'manoeuvre', around the fatal defects in their case," said a notice, dated Thursday, and by Raves to the State. In it, he said he planned to apply for an order to prevent further court postponements.

"The question arises at this stage as to whether (Raves) was not arrested totally prematurely… It is respectfully submitted that the (State) should be called to account for the premature arrest of (Raves)."

Former police colonel Chris Prinsloo, now serving a jail sentence for crimes including theft and racketeering, previously said he had sold at least 2 000 firearms - meant to be destroyed by police - to Laher, who then allegedly sold them to gangsters.

READ: 10 things you should know about the national gun smuggling investigation

It is believed that 1 066 murders were carried out with 888 of the guns, between 2010 and 2014.

At least 261 children were murdered or wounded, between 2010 and 2016, with the guns.

In the notice of the application for an order to try and prevent further delays, it said Raves was arrested on August 19, 2015, and that the case had been on court rolls in both a magistrate’s court and the high court.

Excluding Friday’s postponement, the case had been postponed 11 times for various reasons.

The notice said that, in November 2016, Raves had informed the court that he planned to request discovery from the State, as he wanted to access further evidentiary material to be used in the trial.

Allegedly intercepted calls

This included "alleged intercepted telephone conversations". 

On the same day that Raves informed the court of wanting to access further evidence, the State had served an amended indictment.

In an amended summary of facts, the State had alleged: "The core function of this criminal enterprise was to steal firearms and ammunition destined for destruction and provided the firearms and ammunition to criminals, including the accused, for their own benefit and for other such members of criminal gangs on the Cape Flats."

The notice by Raves said that in his request for further particulars on the amended indictment, the state conceded he was “not guilty of any criminal conduct relating to the sale of firearms to (Laher) and gangs operating on the Cape Flats in the Western Cape”.

Accused share 1 of 23 charges

According to the notice by Raves, the amended indictment in the case consisted of 23 counts, and that only one of these -  racketeering - had been levelled against both Raves and Laher, who were charged under the Prevention of Organised Crime Act (POCA).

But it was argued that having Raves stand trial alongside Laher was not fair on Raves.

"He in no way participated in any manner, nor did he have knowledge of the provision or selling of firearms stolen from the said SAPS stores to criminal gangs operating on the Cape Flats in the Western Cape," the notice said.

"The levelling of a POCA charge against (Raves) is, respectfully not warranted and is aimed at bullying (him) into participation of an extremely lengthy 'POCA' trial, in a province geographically vastly removed from his domicile in Vereeniging, with concomitant extreme prejudice, financially and otherwise."

Raves has been absent from the Western Cape High Court twice when he was meant to appear, due to the collapse of his vital internal organs, including his kidneys and lungs, but the notice said he could not be blamed for all the postponements in the case.

State was 'overeager'

"The only possible inference is that the (state) motivated by overeagerness and/or bad planning, in a hopelessly premature fashion, secured the arrest and enrollment of (Raves) in this matter, despite the vast bulk of their investigation not being completed," it said.

Raves, the notice said, was a "professional person", in that he was a firearms dealer.

It said the delays in the case had not only had a severe financial impact on him, but also a reputational and emotional impact.

During Friday's court proceedings, advocate Pete Mihalik, who is representing Laher, said his client was also "hemorrhaging" money. 

He said he had invited the State, on numerous occasions, to meet to iron out what needed to be done to get the case to proceed.

Mihalik described the case as complex.

Read more on:    irshaad laher  |  alan raves  |  cape town  |  crime

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