Hawks probe sale of police custody guns

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iol news pic Generic handguns Reuters A display of 7-round handguns. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

Johannesburg - An investigation into the possible sale of firearms handed to police during an amnesty period is underway, the Hawks said on Wednesday.

“There was nothing to investigate before until we came across new information and decided to follow it all up,” spokesman Paul Ramaloko said.

The investigation would focus on Gauteng first. The probe followed the arrest of three people at a house in Norwood, Johannesburg, where police found more than 300 firearms, ammunition, and explosives on May 22.

A Ukrainian couple and their domestic helper were arrested on allegations of renting out the weapons for use in cash-in-transit heists and ATM bombings.

Police found R1, R4, R5, and AK-47 rifles, and about 300 handguns. Detonators, a machine used to manufacture ammunition, packaged dagga, and explosives used for ATM bombings were also confiscated.

During their bail application in the Johannesburg Magistrate's Court on Tuesday, prosecutor Talita Louw told the court that some of the firearms in the cache were handed to police for destruction during a national firearms amnesty in 2009.

The firearms were suspected to have been sold by corrupt police officers, Louw said.

Gun Free SA on Wednesday criticised the police.

“When gun owners handed their guns to the police during the 2009 national firearms amnesty, they trusted the police to destroy these guns,” spokesman Alan Storey said in a statement.

“The public played their part. They handed their guns in to the police for destruction.

“That some of these guns have been found in an illegal arms cache makes a mockery of South Africa's public commitment to safety and security by destroying stockpiles of weapons.”

AfriForum said it had submitted a request to national police commissioner Riah Phiyega, for records of firearms registers since the amnesty period.

it was hoped this would shed light on how many weapons had been destroyed since 2009.

“AfriForum also requested that it be made public how many weapons which are still to be destroyed are currently in possession of the police, and how many weapons have been misplaced by the police during the amnesty period,” said spokesman Ian Cameron.

Poor weapon control could pose a threat to national security, he said.

The three accused in the arms cache matter - Emma Shumler-Tishko, 62, her husband Mark, 59, and Endi Nkhoma, 26 - face charges of possession of unlicensed firearms and ammunition, dealing in dagga, and contravention of the Explosives Act.

Wheelchair-bound Shumler-Tishko was released on a bail of R5000

because of her condition, Ramaloko said.

All three are expected back in court on June 23.

Sapa


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