Revoked!

FLA cancels licences of individuals connected to gun-making machine probe

BY ALPHEA SAUNDERS
Senior staff reporter
saundersa@jamaicaobserver.com

Saturday, July 14, 2018

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HEAD of the Firearm Licensing Authority (FLA) Shane Dalling announced yesterday that the regulator has revoked more than seven licences from individuals connected to a March incident in Manchester in which a gun-making machine was found.

The machine was reportedly discovered when the authority carried out a probe into a matter in which more than 100,000 rounds of ammunition were requested by nine firearm licensees.

Dalling said the authority has also revoked the licences of a firearm, ammunition and shooting range dealership in Manchester.

Providing an update on the developments surrounding what is now also a police investigation, at a press conference at the Terra Nova All-Suite Hotel yesterday, the chief executive officer (CEO) said the FLA has had its eye on the parish for some time now.

He said that the FLA, in monitoring the use of ammunition across the country for years, had zoomed in on Manchester because of the high number of ammunition being used in the parish.

“When compared to other areas, Manchester seemed to be consuming far more ammunition than anywhere else in the country, while the population of licence holders in Manchester is small compared to other areas of the country,” he stated.

The CEO explained that when the request for 108,000 rounds was received, coupled with troubling reports connected to Manchester, the FLA triggered an investigation.

“When we approved the initial 60,000 rounds of ammunition we did it on the premise that we would track those ammunition,” he explained, adding that this was when the authority came across the gun-making machine that made the news on March 20, at premises connected to the investigation.

Yesterday, Dalling outlined that in January, when the FLA received the requests coming out of Manchester for more than 100,000 rounds of ammunition for nine individuals, it set off alarm bells.

“It is unprecedented, because that volume of ammunition would run a cost of over $12 million. The individuals each requested 12,000 to be issued within the space of a month. We are not used to seeing that sort of request by individuals to use ammunition. We have dealerships that can't afford to buy 12,000 rounds for the purpose of selling and we found it suspicious that individuals could afford the same,” he explained.

According to Dalling, the investigation concluded that the ammunition was ordered on the pretext that the individuals were going overseas for a competition.

“Our investigations revealed that several of those persons didn't have any visas to travel overseas. [It was] also revealed that some of the persons didn't have that amount of money in their accounts over the last two years.

“It was also uncovered that immediately after we launched the investigation, a large sum of money was deposited in one of the person's accounts, and one person told us that they did not want the ammunition anymore,” he told journalists.

Dalling said the FLA had received statements from some of the individuals involved that they were instructed to apply for the rounds, that they never completed the requisite forms, and that the documents were only presented to them for signing.

“We were also told that although expenditure sheets were submitted showing that the ammunition was used, we have statements from one of the individuals that he was coerced to sign the expenditure sheet for the usage of the ammunition, although he clearly remembered that he did not use that amount of the ammunition,” Dalling said.

Furthermore, an audit of the dealership found more than 40,000 of the rounds in question were in the possession of the dealership being probed, according to the FLA boss.

“We asked for documentation for the sale of the ammunition and we were given sales receipts for all the ammunition, however, the persons who were supposed to purchase the ammunition — and for which receipts were received — told us they never paid for those ammunition,” he said.

Dalling said the authority also later discovered that although it was said that the ammunition in storage at the dealership belonged to particular individuals, some of those same people for whom the dealership was holding up to 10,000 rounds out of the 12,000 requested, were still purchasing ammunition over the counter from the dealer.

“They were still purchasing 200 and 300 rounds of ammunition and paying cash over the counter for that… We found all the transactions suspicious because those very users had never purchased more than 300 or 400 rounds of ammunition for purpose of practice,” he stated.

He said the adverse intelligence report was not one that the FLA was receiving for the first time in relation to Manchester: “The last report we received from MOCA (Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency) and Intelligence Branch was sufficient cause for concern for the authority to revoke all the licences of the persons involved in the incident in Manchester,” he stated.

At the same time, Dalling said the Manchester case was not isolated as the FLA had found that among the 12 full dealerships in the country, and the 11 which only provide ammunition, there were discrepancies, where the ammunition-only dealers are selling over the counter.

“We found where the firearm dealerships who are restricted to selling ammunition only were selling ammunition like a commodity over the counter; meaning persons could, if they can afford it, buy any amount of ammunition they wish without any authorisation from the FLA. We got information from some dealers that persons were attempting to leave the location with the ammunition, and we have intelligence reports that several persons have been doing that — amassing ammunition,” he revealed.

However, Dalling sought to assure that the authority has now clamped down on those activities, so that people should no longer be able to purchase ammunition without pre-authorisation from the agency. This pre-authorisation, among other measures, should enable the FLA to track buyers of ammunition, and usage.

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