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Three semi-automatic rifles seized by the police from a ship anchored off Durban more than a year ago are to be returned to their owners in terms of an order taken by consent in the Durban High Court on Monday.
While the State was set to argue an application brought by UK-registered maritime security company Solace Global Maritime for the return of the Izhmash Saiga M3s, Judge Trevor Gorven indicated that, in his view, the permits issued for them were lawful.
The company brought the application earlier this year, complaining that the three rifles had been seized unlawfully.
Solace managing director David Peach said that the company provided armed operatives to shipping companies for protection against pirates.
Temporary permits had been issued by the SA authorities, so that the weapons could be brought in and out of the harbour, he said.
But the three weapons had been seized from the ship, Elinakous, and he had been told that the permits were invalid and had been granted on false information. A criminal docket had been opened.
Solace’s lawyer, Alan Weber, told The Mercury on Monday that a docket had been referred to the director of public prosecutions but a decision had been taken not to prosecute.
The company is a reputable maritime security company, probably one of the biggest in the world… It has permits to carry 88 firearms. We do not know why the police picked on just three and decided to confiscate them,” he said.
In terms of the consent order, the State will hand back the weapons as soon as the company applies for and is granted new permits because the old ones expired during the court dispute.