Police have uncovered a corrupt gun syndicate that has granted temporary firearm licences to 150 Chinese nationals in Durban.

The Sunday Tribune has learnt that the Chinese businessmen have been able to buy the temporary licences for R30 000 from corrupt police officials, often with a turnaround time of a day.

Sources close to the probe, who cannot be named as they are not authorised to speak to the media, said there were major discrepancies in the licence issuing process.

“Applications for temporary authorisation to possess firearms are being processed by designated firearms officers without following proper procedures and proof of competency tests for… R30 000. Police stations implicated include Sydenham, Durban North and Durban Central.”

The body responsible for issuing temporary licences is the Central Firearm Registry. Designated firearms officers should have no part in the process. Their job is to ensure the documents attached to an application are properly processed.

But the source said designated firearms officers, as well as “just about anyone with access to the forms and stamps”, were issuing temporary licences.

Gun Free South Africa is outraged, saying temporary licences (which are valid for a year) were meant to cost R140, not R30 000.

Gun Free South Africa co-ordinator Claire Taylor said the scam seemed to extend beyond KwaZulu-Natal.

A source within the Hawks, who would not be named, said that officers had uncovered the syndicate after a businessman had been bragging on a gun range about how he got his licence in a day. The source said police were systematically tracing all firearms issued suspiciously.

Captain Thulani Zwane said anyone applying for a firearm licence needed a competency certificate and proof of citizenship, and was required to pay a fee of R140. Applicants also needed to motivate their reason for applying for the licence.

Hawks spokesman Captain Paul Ramaloko confirmed a probe was under way. He said police were happy with developments thus far.

The investigation into the syndicate began early last year. Chinese nationals are unlawfully using their work permits to get the licences.

Taylor said that, by law, an application for a temporary authorisation had be lodged at least three months before possession of the firearm. In some cases, temporary authorisations were being granted in a day, she said.

“Gun Free South Africa has repeatedly called for a forensic audit of the 1 million firearm applications fast-tracked by the Central Firearms Registry in 2011 as it dealt with a backlog of applications.”

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- Sunday Tribune