Pretoria - The Pretoria High Court has ordered police to hand back several items, including computers and more than R10 700 in cash, to the owner of an internet café in e-Malahleni, after the items were confiscated by the police who accused the owner of running an illegal online gambling scheme.
Judge MJ Teffo said in the first place a local magistrate should never have issued a search warrant for the applicant who runs a business called Zoeco System Managers CC. The judge declared the search warrant invalid and set it aside.
The goods of the business - which provides electronic internet facilities and related services to the public - were confiscated for the second time in September this year. These were mainly computers, flash drives, printers, cash and a cash register.
The owner of the business told the court that his business would be crippled if the police did not return the items.
A policeman earlier stated that he received information from the Mpumalanga Gambling Board that illegal gambling activities were taking place at the applicant’s premises.
He went there and observed people entering and exiting the premises “from which some kind of business was clearly being conducted”.
The applicant did not have a licence to operate any gambling business at the premises. The police then conducted an undercover operation and police agents were given money to go to the premises to gamble.
Following the police operation, the cops for the first time in May obtained a search and seizure warrant for the premises and various items were taken. These were later returned when it became clear that the warrant was invalid as certain legal requirements had not been met.
The police said they, however, again received information that the “gambling activities” were continuing and felt there was enough information to justify yet another warrant.
They again raided the premises in September and seized the computers and other items.
The applicant told the court that there was absolutely no information on oath before the magistrate to create a suspicion that he was involved in any illegal gambling activities.
The magistrate should thus have never issued the second search and seizure warrant, it was said.
Judge Teffo in his judgment said the police did not provide information to the court as to what transpired which led to the issuing of the second warrant.
It was just stated in general terms that the police officer received information that the applicant continued with his “illegal gambling activities”.
The judge said neither the source of information, its nature nor its status was disclosed.
According to him the magistrate should have questioned this before simply issueing the warrant.