Cape Town - Notorious gang bosses, police and security company staff face arrest as part of an extensive police probe into a countrywide syndicate that allegedly issued fraudulent firearm licences.
Police at the Central Firearm Registry in Pretoria are suspected of having created successful gun licence applications on the police’s computer system and then issuing the licences to some of the leading gangsters and drug dealers in the Western Cape.
Jeremy Vearey, the head of Operation Combat, which is heading the investigation in the province, said police had analysed hundreds of gun licences and identified many individuals and companies who apparently benefited from the syndicate.
“We will painstakingly work through a lot more licences,” he said.
Three police officers from the firearm registry are already facing criminal charges and more are expected to follow.
Vearey warned: “Everyone will be facing charges in due course. We’re going through every single licence application that went through this network.”
He said, aside from gang leaders, others being probed as part of the syndicate included:
* Three security companies, in the Western Cape and other provinces, for having procured gun licences through the syndicate.
One company had 56 firearms, the second 42 firearms and the third 12.
* Firearm training facilities which may have been part of the chain in the syndicate.
* Range marshals who claimed to have seen a licence applicant at a training facility, when the applicant may never have been there in person.
Vearey said police were focusing on all aspects of the syndicate – who was involved in the syndicate, who got licences from it and which firearm training facilities may have been involved. People who had fraudulently obtained licences could face charges of corruption, illegal possession of a firearm and fraud.
The syndicate came to light when, as part of Operation Combat, alleged gang kingpin Ralph Stanfield, the nephew of the late Cape Town druglord Colin Stanfield, was investigated.
Stanfield, his partner Nicole Johnson and sister, Francisca Stanfield, were arrested in June and, according to a police statement, seven firearms were seized.
The Central Firearm Registry was raided in June and three police officers – Priscilla Mangyani, Billy April and Mary Cartwright – arrested. The case against the six resumes in the Cape Town Magistrate’s Court next year.
In an affidavit, Stanfield, who faces charges including illegal possession of firearms, said he would plead not guilty. “These firearms were not bought off the street. I did not go into a back alley and acquire firearms. I went to a registered firearms dealer.
“I did all the necessary training… It is self-evident that the police are targeting their own people who they believe to be corrupt who have issued firearms licences,” his affidavit said.
Andre Pretorius, president of the Professional Firearm Trainers Council, also expressed doubts about the police probe.
In June three police investigators from Cape Town visited Pretorius, who is based in Gauteng, and asked questions about the process Stanfield had undergone to obtain a semi-automatic rifle.
Stanfield had apparently gone to a firearm training academy outside Johannesburg.
This week Pretorius said he had not come across any irregularities at the training academy Stanfield had apparently attended. He said nobody but the police could issue firearm competency certificates and issue firearm licences.