South Africa

The Big Sweep, Part 2

SAPS drag in alleged underworld figure and 10 cops after illegal gun licence racket exposed

SAPS drag in alleged underworld figure and 10 cops after illegal gun licence racket exposed
Alleged underworld boss Nafiz Modack. (Photo: Gallo Images / Jaco Marais)

The arrest of alleged underworld figure Nafiz Modack along with 10 former and current SAPS officers on suspicion of gun-related charges is evidence of the deep and systemic corruption in the SAPS, say security experts.

Nafiz Modack, eight high-ranking police officers, two former officers and underworld figures and gun dealers were arrested on 16 June and appeared in the Kempton Park Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday 17 June. 

Modack appeared alongside Anwa Gallie and Sergeant Lesiba Rodney Masoga.  Modack was released on R10,000 bail and ordered to report to the Bothasig charge office in Cape Town three times a week.

Gallie was also released on R10,000 bail and instructed to report thrice weekly to the Sophiatown police station, while Mosaga was released on R5,000 bail. The trio, along with the other 13 suspects, are due back in the South Gauteng High Court on 10 July.

The men allegedly colluded with officers at the Central Firearm Registry (CFR) to procure firearm licences unlawfully. The arrests come after a three-year investigation.

Johan Burger, senior researcher at the Institute of Security Studies (ISS), said the arrest of Modack and his fellow accused was indicative of the ease with which criminals had access to dishonest SAPS members, even among the most senior ranks.

National police spokesperson Brigadier Vish Naidoo said Modack’s wife, Rehana Ismail, her twin sister, Roshana Ismail, as well as Faried Cassiem, Abdullah Ismail and Natasha Manuel were arrested earlier this month, bringing to 21 the number of suspects arrested in the illegal gun licence saga. A further five suspects are yet to be arrested, Naidoo added.

Burger said the true extent of police involvement with the criminal underworld was not known and it appeared that some SAPS officials were easy targets for criminal networks. Research had also found that police were involved in cash-in-transit heists and other crime syndicates.

“This is also not the first time that the Central Firearm Registry has been the focus of corruption investigations. Over the years there has been a number of investigations relating to corruption at the CFR. For example, in July 2013 two brigadiers from the CFR were also suspended and charged with corruption,” said Burger.

The arrests and the weaknesses these investigations have exposed should prompt SAPS to further strengthen anti-corruption and integrity structures and measures, he said.

Foreign crime syndicates were deeply rooted in organised crime networks in South Africa, drawing in local underworld figures sometimes as pawns, said Burger. But a flourishing homegrown underworld also existed.

Meanwhile, community policing forums (CPFs) in gang-ravaged areas of the Western Cape have lauded the arrests. They said they hoped the arrests would result in the removal of illegal guns from the streets as well as the rooting out of corrupt police officers.

The most pressing concerns remained the ongoing, endemic gang-violence in areas including Manenberg, Lavender Hill, Atlantis, Bonteheuwel which had led to many murders, including of children. 

The CPFs have pleaded for all illegal firearms circulated by underworld figures to be removed from the streets by the Anti-Gang Unit.

The investigation into Modack and his fellow accused was launched in November 2017 when police received information about alleged fraud and corruption relating to firearm licence applications in Cape Town and Gauteng.

“In January 2018, police found that several people, including Cape Town underworld figures and their family and friends, allegedly obtained their competency certificate(s) and firearm licence(s) to possess a firearm as well as temporary authorisation to possess a firearm(s) in an allegedly wrongful manner,” said Naidoo.

The investigation revealed that the suspects had made firearm licence applications in Gauteng, specifically at police stations in Edenvale, Norwood and Kempton Park. And while the probe centred on these charge offices, it could not be ruled out that others would be implicated, said Naidoo.

A team in the Anti-Gang Unit, led by Major-General Andre Lincoln, which linked Modack to the new charges, had also investigated an earlier case of extortion against Modack, Colin Booysen, Ashley Fields and Jacques Cronje, which was heard in the Cape Town Magistrate’s Court earlier in 2020.

The men were accused of belonging to an alleged racket targeting nightclubs, restaurants and the security industry in Cape Town. The four were acquitted.

Before this, in March 2019, Modack and his mother, Ruwaida, were in the dock facing a charge relating to a corrupt relationship with disgraced former top police officer Kolindren Govender, who, in December 2019, had pleaded guilty to 51 charges of corruption.

The relationship between Modack, his mother and Govender dated back to November 2011 and August 2013 when, according to the Hawks, the Modacks offered Govender a R146,000 bribe in return for “special treatment”.

The latest case against Modack features striking similarities to charges faced by alleged 28s gang boss Ralph Stanfield. Stanfield, his wife, Nicole Johnson, and his sister, Francisca Stanfield, were arrested on 14 June 2014.

When police confiscated their firearms they also arrested officers at the Central Firearms Registry. Police at the time alleged the Stanfields’ firearm licences had been obtained unlawfully from officers at the firearm registry who had aided and abetted them.

In July 2018, Stansfield, his wife, and his sister launched an application in the Western Cape High Court against the SAPS in a bid to have their confiscated weapons returned. The bid failed as did a later appeal to the SCA, which was dismissed in December 2019.

It is believed that 1,066 murders were carried out with 888 of the guns between 2010 and 2014. At least 261 children were murdered or wounded between 2010 and 2016 with the guns.

The SCA found the trio had obtained their firearm licences unlawfully and were not entitled to possess the weapons.

Stanfield was scheduled to appear in the Khayelitsha Regional Court along with his wife, sister, three former police officers and 18 others, but the matter was postponed due to the Covid-19 regulations.

The Modack and Stansfield matters follow the 18-year sentence handed down in June 2016 to former police colonel Chris Prinsloo, following a plea bargain.

Prinsloo was convicted on more than 20 charges of racketeering, corruption and money laundering and had sold an estimated R9-million worth of weapons and ammunition to Cape Flats gang kingpins.

The prosecution contended that Prinsloo had sold firearms that were meant to be destroyed to the owner of two Spur franchises, Irshaad “Hunter” Laher. Laher, who is currently out on R100,000 bail, still faces charges of corruption, theft of firearms and ammunition and possession of illegal firearms.

It is believed that 1,066 murders were carried out with 888 of the guns between 2010 and 2014. At least 261 children were murdered or wounded between 2010 and 2016 with the guns.

Laher will face the charges alongside Vereeniging arms dealer Alan Raves. The matter will be heard in the Western Cape High Court.

Steenberg Community Policing Forum chairperson Mark Rossouw said two of the stolen guns had been used in a murder and an attempted murder incident in Lavender Hill. This information had surfaced during a court appearance at the Wynberg Magistrate’s Court when police informed the magistrate that ballistic tests had proved that the guns were part of the stolen cache sold to gang leaders.

National police commissioner General Khehla Sitole applauded the perseverance of the team, which resulted in what he termed “a major breakthrough.”

“We are systematically identifying and rooting out corruption and corrupt members from the SAPS. It may be the hope and desire of many that criminality within the SAPS should be more speedily eradicated.

“These investigation processes, in order for them to be executed effectively, take time. The most effective way of dealing with corruption is to prevent it and in order to do this, I am urging both members of the SAPS as well as the community at large to refrain from engaging in such activities – because you will be caught,” Sitole said. DM

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