Johannesburg - Firearms apparently destroyed by Gauteng police have ended up in the hands of Western Cape gangsters.
Western Cape detectives found that some of the weapons they confiscated from gangsters had their serial numbers erased – but ballistic tests revealed the weapons had actually been in the Gauteng Firearms and Liquor Control Unit.
The police system showed that they had been destroyed.
A nationwide investigation into firearm links between the police and gangsters
National police spokesman Lieutenant-General Solomon Makgale said the case was a huge breakthrough.
“It will go a long way into resolving many gang violence-related cases in the Western Cape as well as theft of firearms and ammunition from SAPS depots. We are pleased with the progress so far.”
The details of the investigation were revealed in affidavits before the High Court in Joburg when gun collector and dealer Alan Ravers brought an urgent application before the court to have search warrants against him overturned and his firearms returned.
In court it emerged that police believed there were links between Ravers and Colonel Chris Prinsloo, a police officer in charge of the firearms safe in Germiston with 35 years’ experience, who was arrested in January.
Ravers, a heritage inspector and the owner of the largest collection of carved firearms dating back to 1872, denied having any untoward relationship with Prinsloo, other than knowing him in his official capacity as a police officer.
In responding affidavits, Western Cape investigating officer Captain Clive Ontong detailed how the national firearm-smuggling investigation had started and how they discovered that the stolen SAPS firearms were later altered, either by changing the serial numbers or changing the working mechanism of the firearm.
“Once they had been altered, they were then sold to other firearms dealers or to people involved in criminal activities,” Ontong said.
He said police monitored movements at the SAPS storage facilities close to the next destruction date. It was then they found that Prinsloo had removed heavy boxes from a safe and took them to his house in Vereeniging.
The affidavit said Prinsloo visited Ravers’s premises and a shooting range in Walkerville, “which is also under investigation for the alleged issuing of fraudulent firearm licences to prominent gang leaders in the Western Cape”.
Police then applied for warrants to search Prinsloo’s and Ravers’s premises and the shooting range.
“On January 16, 2015, a police operation was conducted at Prinsloo’s residence. There, we found 800 different types of empty magazines and about 550 rounds of assault rifle ammunition. I need to point out that Prinsloo was not licensed to possess the ammunition and the magazines,” Ontong said.
Prinsloo was arrested for theft and possession of unlicensed ammunition. A source said they believed Prinsloo allegedly sold the firearms to gangsters. Some R100 000 cash was found on him at the time of his arrest, and the investigation against him is looking as far back as 10 years ago.
On the same day as Prinsloo’s arrest, Western Cape police Sergeant Jeffrey Witbooi led a police operation at Ravers’s premises, where Ontong said they found a large number of various calibre firearms and ammunition. As a licensed firearm collector and dealer, Raves said he was allowed to possess the guns.
Ontong said this did not explain why Ravers kept about 10 000 rounds of ammunition under a pool table.
Police have opened a case against him for not safeguarding the ammunition and also applied for a second warrant. The firearms and ammunition on the premises, as well as a computer and cellphones, were removed.
The firearms were taken for ballistic tests. It was found, according to SAPS ballistic expert Warrant Officer Quinton Bothman, that 33 of the firearms had no serial numbers, serial numbers had digits altered, and one firearm had a laboratory number. Bothman said ballistic tests needed to be done on these firearms.
Ravers succeeded in his application and the search warrants were overturned. Police were ordered to return his possessions, except for the 33 firearms.