Gun dealers, security companies focus of firearms investigation

2017-08-03 20:05
Previously confiscated guns. (Supplied)

Previously confiscated guns. (Supplied)

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Cape Town - Gun dealers and security companies are the focus of a widespread investigation into the contravention of firearm regulations, sparked by increasing gun crimes in the Western Cape.

Details of this probe were revealed in the Western Cape High Court this week in a case relating to firearms seized from a security company.

On July 12, police seized two handguns, six shotguns, and ammunition, from Bellville security company, Skhosana Maponyane Hall Phillips and Khumalo. It trades as The Security Group (TSG).

In an effort to get the weapons back, TSG approached the High Court for an urgent order forcing the police to return the firearms. This application, heard on Tuesday, was unsuccessful. 

Risk to public

Judge Dennis Davis dismissed it with costs, saying he could not "play dice" with public interest and that he had "very serious concerns about the plethora of firearms".

Dirk Uijs, SC, for TSG, argued the company was "in the business of preventing violent crimes". 

Davis pointed out that police, not private armies, tried to prevent violent crimes.

"It's essentially being argued here that a parallel organisation must have the same rights as the police force," he said.

Underworld and guns investigation

TSG's firearms form part of an investigation into underworld nightclub violence.

The Hawks and the Private Security Industry Regulatory Authority (Psira) are involved in this probe.

TSG's director, Grant Veroni, is under investigation for allegedly fraudulently getting firearm licences for the company's weapons.

In an affidavit, Hawks investigator Mike Barkhuizen said that in 2015, he was tasked with investigating alleged fraud by businesses and individuals applying for firearm licences.

On Monday, News24 reported that the Hawks were involved in a gun smuggling investigation, said to be the biggest in South Africa, and were probing gunmen who carried out more than 1000 murders between 2010 and 2016.

In another affidavit in the TSG application, Colonel Jacques van Lill, Western Cape commander of the police's firearm, liquor and second-hand (Flash) goods control unit, said he was a co-ordinator in an ongoing firearms investigation.

This probe was into alleged contraventions of the Firearm Control Act and its regulations by firearm dealers, manufacturers, suppliers, and security companies.

Firearm crimes

Van Lill said the investigation started due to "well-publicised and increasing" gun-related crimes in the Western Cape.

There has recently been a flare-up of gang shootings around Cape Town, resulting in several murders.

"Gun-related violent crime is a very serious problem in the Western Cape," Van Lill said in his affidavit.

"It poses a serious threat to our democratic order." 

'Legal intimidation'

Last month, News24 reported that security guards may be exploiting their employers' Psira registration by intimidating others or acting as a show of force for certain individuals. This while secure in the knowledge that official paperwork would protect them.

Several well-placed sources had detailed how some suspected gang members and businessmen with links to the underworld had infiltrated the private security industry legally, to access more firearms and, in some cases, to try and mask illegal operations.

One source said some gang members employed others without criminal records to start up security companies, get firearms licences from police, and get registered with Psira.

The security company and guards were then used to protect the gangsters and intimidate rivals.

Sources called this "legal intimidation".

Read more on:    cape town  |  firearms  |  underworld  |  crime

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