A Cape businessman linked to an illegal gun dealing ring wants the Court to unfreeze over R4 million worth of his seized assets.
Yesterday lawyers representing Irshaad Laher approached the Western Cape High Court to ask that a provisional restraint order against Laher, limited to R9 million, be lifted.
This after the National Director of Public Prosecution’s Asset and Forfeiture Unit approached the court to ask that his assets be frozen.
The AFU says they did this after finding out through the media that Laher was selling off his assets just days after being released on bail.
Prosecutors say the order was to prevent him from selling off any more of his assets, so that at the completion of his criminal case, the money can be seized.
At the time of his arrest in June, Laher owned two Spur franchises in Ottery and Observatory, Nando’s branches in Belgravia and Gardens, and was leasing five properties in Lansdowne with a joint value of about R2.5 million.
The 41-year-old was arrested on June 22 and appeared in the Bellville Magistrates’ Court where he was charged with corruption and money laundering. He was released on R100 000 bail five days later.
He started selling off his assets on June 30, claiming that the franchise holders were forcing him to cut ties as he was bringing the brand’s name into disrepute.
Laher is accused of buying guns from former police Colonel Christiaan Prinsloo, and selling them to Cape Flats gangs.
Prinsloo was sentenced to 18 years in prison after entering into a plea agreement with the State.
Prosecutors say Prinsloo sold more than 2 000 guns to Laher, which he allegedly sold to the Americans, Mongrels and Hard Livings gangs.
According to the AFU, Laher’s dealings with Prinsloo earned him R9 million.
They claim that in 2008, Laher contacted Prinsloo at his work in Vereeniging, asking him for “untraceable firearms”.
According to court papers: “The defendant had informed (Prinsloo) the firearms would be supplied to companies rendering security services to pirates’ vessels offshore.
“The defendant paid Prinsloo for the firearms in cash. The version of Prinsloo regard[ing] the sale of firearms supplied to the defendant was corroborated by evidence of two witnesses, one Colonel Naidoo who worked with Prinsloo and Shaheen Tickley, an old acquaintance of the defendant.
“The defendant sold the firearms supplied by Prinsloo to his contacts at a price of R4 500 (each). As a result to estimate benefit derived by defendant from such offences was R9 million.”
And on July 9, Judge James Yekiso granted a provisional restraining order limited to R9 million.
Thereafter, the state froze Laher’s assets to the value of R4.2 million.
This includes his R3.2 million home in Rondebosch, which the State valued at R2.3 million, four businesses, a Toyota Hilux valued at R321 000, six bank accounts with a total of R1.5 million in it, and the R100 000 he paid for bail.
Yesterday, Laher’s lawyers Pete Mihalik and Senior Counsel William King argued before Judge Elizabeth Baartman to have Judge Yekiso’s decision reversed.
King argued that when the state applied for the original order, they had not included any facts to support their claim of enough evidence to secure a conviction against their client.
He said the absence of Prinsloo’s statement, a key witness in the matter, proved this.
But Advocate Madoda Titus for the AFU said they presented the court with enough evidence and had not included the affidavits of the witnesses because there was a risk attached to it at a time, that being the identity of the other two witnesses, Naidoo and Tickley, which they can now disclose.
He argued the defence had the option of approaching the court and requesting to see the affidavits, which were excluded from the record at the time, but did not.
He requested that the restraint order granted last month be finalised.
Judge Baartman reserved judgement.