Arrests, courts and convictions. Over 200 white and black rhino dead in South Africa since beginning of 2012. Killed for their horn. Animal poaching reached epidemic proprotions due to illegal trade, syndicates, organized crime, trafficking.
Information provided by a confidential source in South Africa.
First off, the notorious Groenewald gang rhino poaching case, best known for the recent police seizure of over $7 million in assets.
The Groenewald Case
In September 2010 Dawie Groenewald and 11 associates were arrested for inter alia the illegal trade in rhino horns. Amongst the accused were two wildlife veterinary surgeons of Modimolle, Dr. Karel Toet and Manie Du Plessis.
They were officially charged with 1872 counts including racketeering which makes it one of the biggest wildlife cases in South Africa.
The matter was postponed to the 19th Of October 2012 for the defense counsel to file their request for further particulars, as they had not yet submitted such requests on the previous appearance.
Today an Uncapped Asset Forfeiture order was served on all eleven of the accused in the matter. The order is to the value of R55 million ($624,000) profits or benefit made by the enterprise. All the accused movable and immovable property will be seized and placed under curatorship.
The accused will be asked to explain their income and disclose income.
Successes During the First Quarter 2012
99 persons arrested for rhino related matters countrywide.
In January a Zimbabwean citizen Rogers Mukwene was arrested for the illegal possession of three rhino horns in Kameeldrift, Pretoria. During the investigation it became known that he is a convicted rhino poacher in Zimbabwe.
The rhino horns were later traced to a poaching incident at Dinaka Game Reserve in the Mookgopane district two weeks prior to his arrest. Rogers Mukwene’s brother later tried to bribe the investigation officer with R10,000-00 ($1,250) to release Rogers Mukwene on bail.
Rogers Mukwene’s brother was arrested for bribery.
In Thabazimbi, Lucas Malema and Lucas Novela were arrested in an attempt to poach rhino on a game farm. They were found in possession of a 375 hunting rifle as well as a 9mm pistol.
In Assen, Manual Simango, Lucky Boloui, Andries Mhlanga, Mg Ratshivhombelia, Deon Nkozi were arrested for the illegal possession of a 5,57 firearm and 2 x vehicles recovered in a attempt to poach rhino on a game farm.
In Upington, Than Dolwetu Nicolas Mduduma was arrested for the illegal possession of rhino horn.
In Vaalwater Bandam Manyaradzi (Zimbabwian), Goodman Molambo (Zimbabwian) and Oupa Jan Majadibodu were arrested for conspiracy to illegally hunt rhino’s, theft of a fire-arm, theft of a 2-way police radio, unlawful possession of fire arm and ammunition and the unlawful possession of dangerous weapons.
In Beestekraal, North West Province, Lucky Selepe, Manhique Eliasse Themba Manyeka a Mozambique citizen, Mathussi Alberto John (a Mozambican citizen) were arrested for attempting to hunt rhino on a game farm. A 3006 rifle and 4 rounds plus an axe were recovered.
In Masoyi, William Lakote, William Shabone and Isaac Fakude and Ciswe Ngobe were arrested in an attempt to hunt rhino in the Kruger National Park. One firearm was recovered.
In Mhala, Jeffrey Hlabana was arrested and one firearm recovered in an attempt to hunt rhino in the Kruger National Park.
In Kabokwene, Elvis Tulani Nonyani and Tholi Jordaan Ndlovu were arrested with a LM5 (223) rifle and 25 rounds in an attempt to hunt rhino in the Kruger National Park.
In Klaserie, Happy Solomon Nyathi, Dlaweleni Joseph Nyalungu and Mafanyani Mario Helton Sibia were arrested with a 375 firearm in an attempt to hunt rhino on a game farm.
In Manyaleti, Abraham Given Nyathi, Dennis Oros Makhubela and Jimmy Mkansi were arrested with a .303 rifle, bow saw and butchers knife in an attempt to hunt rhino on a game farm.
In Assen, Alex Nyatlo, Karaboe Phetoe, Zola Ngijima, Nduduzi Khanile and Lebitia Japie Sedie were arrested in an attempt to hunt rhino on a game farm.
In Pretoriuskop, Abrey Mnisi and Pride Nkuna were arrested with a .30.06 rifle in an attempt to hunt rhino in the Kruger National Park.
In Sabie Sands, Moosa Hlanane, Proby Nyathi, Devine Nyathi and Sam Mlotshwa were arrested in an attempt to hunt rhino on the game reserve.
In Pretoriuskop, Duncan Solomon Mnisi, Doctor Mbuso Ngwenyama, Charles Heartered Mabunda and Tiyani Mabunda were arrested for the illegal hunting of rhino in the Kruger National Park.
In Kempton Park, Hui Chen was arrested for the illegal possession of rhino horn, elephant ivory curios and hippo tusk to the value of R30,000 ($3,740).
In Kempton Park, QiFeng Chen and Han Ji Gui were arrested for dealing in rhino horns in Kempton Park.
One on the most prominent and notorious syndicates led by Joseph Naylunga and 8 other was arrested on the 2nd of March 2012 outside Hazyview. During the operation over R5 million rand ($624,000) in cash was seized from his house in Mhulu, hidden in a trunk in his garage. Several firearms, knifes and vehicles were seized from the suspects.
A Chinese syndicate responsible for the buying of rhino horns in Bruma Lake was arrested after the Hawks conducted an undercover operation. 4 Chinese citizens were arrested and charges of racketeering are in the process of formulation. The value of the operation is estimated at R3 Million ($374.400). The accused are still in custody.
In middle March Operation Worthy was conducted by all Interpol countries with the aim to curb rhino horn smuggling. In South Africa a combined effort from The Hawks, Interpol, National Wildlife Crime Reaction Unit, Department of Environmental Affairs, NPA, NATJOINTS and SARS was conducted. Inspections were done at taxidermists, freight agencies, airports, borders, game farms and road blocks were held at key areas and searches were conducted. This has resulted in the arrest of Kevin Cooper for the illegal possession of 15 rhino horns and 6 elephant tusk. 15 homesteads in the Mkuze, Ulundi, Mahlabatini, Melmoth, Ubombo that were linked to rhino poachers were search. R500,000-00 ($62,400) worth of wildlife products were seized, as well as 8 firearms and 8 suspects arrested.
In Bethlehem, Nicolaas Erasmus, Benjamin Coetzee and Stephanus Fourie were arrested for the illegal dealing in two rhino horns. The matter was postponed for bail to the 4 of May 2012.
In Hoopstad Christoffel Jacobus Lombard, Eugine Petrus van der Merwe and William Theuns Jooste were arrested and charged with possession of M99; Illegal entry upon land with a weapon; conspiracy to commit a restricted activity and fraud. The case has been postponed to 25 May 2012 for further investigation.
S v Aselmo Baloyi, Jawaki Nkuna and Ishmael Baloyi (Phalaborwa court):
The accused were convicted and sentenced as follows namely illegal hunting of rhino, sentenced to 10 years imprisonment; possession of automatic fire-arm, sentenced to 15 years imprisonment; possession of a hunting rifle, sentenced to 8 years imprisonment and possession of ammunitions, sentenced to 15 years imprisonment.
The effective sentence imposed on 31 January 2012 was 25 years imprisonment as the sentences on count 2 to 4 run concurrently. No application for leave to appeal was made.
S v Phi Hung Nguyen (Kempton Park court):
This accused, a male Vietnamese citizen was sentenced in August 2011 to 6 years imprisonment for possession of 6 horns and 2 years imprisonment for contraventions in terms of the Customs and Excise Act. The effective sentence imposed was 8 years imprisonment.
On 8 March 2012 the appeal against the sentence was dismissed by the South Gauteng High Court and the imposed sentence was confirmed.
S v Duc Manh Chu (Kempton Park Court):
This accused is also a Vietnamese citizen who was sentenced in August 2011to 10 years imprisonment for possession of 12 rhino horns and 2 years imprisonment for contraventions in terms of the Customs and Excise Act. The effective sentence imposed was 12 years imprisonment.
On 13 March 2012 the appeal against the sentence was dismissed by the South Gauteng High Court and the imposed sentence was confirmed.
S v Els (Musina court):
Els is a game trader in Thabazimbi who pleaded guilty earlier this year to the illegal buying, possessing and conveying of 30 rhino horns which he bought from the late Mr Tommy Fourie who had committed suicide. Fourie was the manager at the Maremani Nature Reserve belonging to a Danish Consortium. Rhino were dehorned and the horns sold to Els. Els also dehorned his own rhino and illegally conveyed these 8 horns.
On 13 March 2012 Els was sentenced to ten years imprisonment of which 2 years suspended for 5 years (iro the 30 horns). He was further sentenced to 4 years imprisonment wholly suspended (iro the other 8 horns) as well as repayment of R100,000-00 ($12,480) per month for the next 10 months to the NWCRU to assist in rhino research. Leave to appeal against the sentence was granted and bail pending appeal increased to R300,000-00 ($37,440).
S v Siguaque(Mokopane court):
Accused was convicted earlier this year for illegal hunting of a rhino as well as trespassing on a farm in Moogapong. On 13 March 2012 the accused was sentenced to 12 years imprisonment for illegal hunting and 1 year imprisonment for trespassing to be served simultaneously.
Summary regarding convictions:
The above convictions highlight successes during 2012. However for the period February 2011 to March 2012 convictions followed in 8 cases for the illegal possession of rhino horns, convictions were obtained in 4 cases for the illegal dealing in rhino horns and convictions for the illegal hunting of rhinos were obtained in 6 cases.
In only 8 of these cases were the accused sentenced to a fine. However in 12 of these cases the accused were sentenced to direct imprisonment without the option of a fine.
Only 7 accused had been acquitted during this period.
Court roll status
Currently 57 cases are on the court roll in which 161 accused are charged. 65 of these accused are held in custody while 84 accused have been released on bail.