Judge orders cops to return guns seized from firearms dealer

The content originally appeared on: News Americas Now

Black Immigrant Daily News

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

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THE POLICE have been ordered to return a quantity of guns, ammunition and the firearm user’s licence to Chaguanas firearms dealer Towfeek Ali by midday on Tuesday.

The order was made on Monday by Justice Devindra Rampersad who granted Ali permission to pursue a judicial review claim challenging the seizure of several items, including his registers, personal firearms and FUL, during an alleged 18-day audit of his dealership back in October 2022.

Ali’s lawsuit contends that on October 8, 2022, five officers went to his dealership, Firearms Training Institute Ltd, in Chaguanas, to conduct the alleged audit for 2018-2021, without providing details.

He alleges the officers demanded that he provide his import permits, registers and customs documents despite him telling them section 26 of the Firearms Act only allowed the police to inspect his stock and registers.

The lawsuit also claims Ali was told the registers were incomplete and they needed the information to verify the sale of firearms to FUL holders for the three-year period.

Ali was also told police needed to verify where and from whom firearms were purchased. The lawsuit further contended the police issued a veiled threat of arrest if he did not comply.

To expedite the process and because of the threat of arrest, Ali provided the documents in his possession.

Ali was also told officers would return two days later but were taking his register which would be returned at the end of the audit.

Ali contends the inspection process set out in section 26, did not authorise the police to remove the registers from the compound but he was left with little option.

For the remainder of the weekend, officers were stationed outside his business place and no one, not even him, was allowed to enter.

Ali and his employees were also restricted from accessing the premises and were only allowed to be there when the officers conducting the audit were present. This, he said, directly affected his ability to conduct business and his lawsuit accused the police of usurping his control of the premises.

“The use of statutory power to detain and restrict him was unreasonable and disproportionate.” the lawsuit said.

It further contends the police had no power to detain or deprive him of his liberty, security or freedom of movement or demand the production of documents other than the registers or remove them.

“The intended defendants had no grounds for engaging in an audit of the intended claimants’ business and none were given at any time.”

The lawsuit further said the act only allows the inspection of the registers and stock. It complained about the high-handed, discourteous and oppressive manner in which the police operated and said the police’s actions were “ultra vires the Firearms Act, unreasonable, irrational, illegal disproportionate, in bad faith and constituted an abuse of power.”

The lawsuit also said on October 26, the police returned to the business place with three warrants although they had no reasonable grounds for believing an offence had been committed.

A total of 20 pistols, shotguns and rifles were taken and these were ordered to be returned to Ali along with almost 2,000 rounds of various calibres of ammunition. Ali also has to present these weapons to the Forensic Science Centre for testing while the police have to make copies of the registers and return the originals to him and all CCTV devices and others by Friday.

A case management hearing has been set for April 11.

Ali is represented by King’s Counsel Anand Beharrylal, Kiel Taklalsingh, Asif Hosein-Shah and Ananda Rampersad.

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