A High Court Judge has ordered the Police Service to return 20 firearms and a large quantity of ammunition that were seized by police officers from a licensed firearms dealer late last year.
Justice Devindra Rampersad made the order on Monday as he upheld an injunction application from businessman Towfeek Ali and his company Firearms Training Institute Limited.
Guardian Media understands that the injunction application stemmed from a judicial review lawsuit filed by Ali and the company over the TTPS’ ability, under the Firearms Act, to conduct an “audit,” during which Ali’s personal firearms and ammunition were seized.
According to the evidence in the case, on October 8, last year, a group of police officers visited Ali’s business and informed him that they were there to conduct an “audit.”
Although Ali pointed out that Section 26 of the legislation allows police officers to check the business’ stock and registers, he still complied with the officers’ request for the import permits for firearms purchased by Ali and the company.
“Cpl Marshall then stated that if the same was not provided, she would deal with the matter in another way, and that the representatives of the intended claimants knew the said way, which was a veiled threat of arrest,” attorney Ananda Rampersad said.
Ananda Rampersad claimed that after the officers did not complete their search that evening, they said that they would return the following Monday.
She claimed that Assistant Superintendent (ASP) Wayne Brown told her client that police officers would be stationed at the building until the search was completed and they would not be allowed to access the building.
The officers also seized the firearms, ammunition and records.
While Ananda Rampersad admitted that Ali and his employees were allowed limited access when the investigating officers returned after the weekend, she claimed that the officers remained stationed at the building until October 27 and impeded their work.
“This meant that on every day during the said period, FTI’s personnel would arrive at the compound and be required to wait in their vehicles until the arrival of the investigating officers,” Rampersad said.
“The intended claimants will contend that the intended defendants unlawfully usurped control of their premises by their occupation and control (in particular the control of access) of same,” she added.
The lawyer claimed that in late October, the officers executed search warrants, under Section 6 of the legislation, at the business and at Ali’s home.
She questioned the ability of the officers to utilise the segment of the legislation as she pointed out that Ali had never been charged with an indictable offence.
“Accordingly, it is not accepted there were, are, or could be any reasonable ground for believing that an offence contrary to that section had been committed for the purposes of either obtaining the warrants referred herein, and in any event for the continued retention of the documents, items, and devices seized pursuant thereto,” Rampersad said.
In deciding on the injunction application, Justice Rampersad also granted leave for Ali and the company to pursue their substantive lawsuit over the “audit”.
Guardian Media understands that the firearms and ammunition were returned by the deadline set by Justice Rampersad.
The substantive case is scheduled to come up for a hearing on April 11.
Ali and his company are being represented by Anand Beharrylal, KC, Kiel Taklalsingh, and Asif Hosein-Shah.