Media Release: R55 million assets seized from poachers
Date: 9th May 2012
The joint security forces including the Endangered Species of the Hawks, the NPA, the Asset Forfieture Unit, Department of Environmental affairs and the curators made a huge stride in our undying effort to thwart rhino poaching in South Africa. This team has seized assets in the region of R55 million, believed to have been acquired through criminal activities, particularly rhino poaching from Dawie Groenewald, two veterinary surgeons, Drs Karel Toet and Manie Du Plessis.
In September 2010 the aforementioned accused were officially charged with 1872 counts of racketeering which makes it one of the biggest wildlife cases in South Africa. While this matter is still pending in court, the provisions of the Proceeds of Crime Act allows the Asset Forfeiture Unit to seize and preserve the assets of an accused until the case is finalized. On conviction of an accused, the seizure is realized and these proceeds are then used to continue with the combating of crime.
The joint security forces which also includes the SAPS, SANDF and SANPARKS have worked tirelessly over the years to bring rhino poachers to book. Since January this year 99 people were arrested for rhino related matters country wide. It is imperative to mention these cases to indicate the extent of the the problem of rhino poaching.
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 was arrested for bribery. This happened after he offered to pay the investigation officer R10 000-00 for the release of Rogers Mukwene on bail.
Thabazimbi, Limpopo Lucas Malema and Lucas Novela were arrested for attempting to poach rhino on a game farm. They were found in possession of a 375 hunting rifle as well as a 9mm pistol.
Assen, (North West): Manual Simango, Lucky Baloyi, Andries Mhlanga, Mr Ratshivhombelia, Deon Nkozi were arrested for the illegal possession of a 5,57 firearm and 2 x vehicles recovered while they were attempting to poach rhino on a game farm.
Upington, Northern Cape : Than Dolwetu Nicolas Mduduma was arrested for the illegal possession of rhino horn.
Vaalwater, (Limpopo): Bandam Manyaradzi (Zimbabwean), Goodman Molambo (Zimbabwean) and Oupa Jan Majadibodu were arrested for conspiracy to illegally hunt rhinos, theft of a firearm, theft of a 2-way police radio, unlawful possession of a firearm and ammunition as well as 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.
Masoyi, (Mpumalanga): William Lakote, William Shabone and Isaac Fakude and Ciswe Ngobe were arrested for attempting to hunt rhino in the Kruger National Park. One firearm was recovered.
Mhala, (Mpumalanga): Jeffrey Hlabana was arrested and one firearm recovered when he attempted to hunt rhino in the Kruger National Park.
Kabokwene, (Mpumalanga): 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.
Klaserie, (Limpopo): Happy Solomon Nyathi, Dlaweleni Joseph Nyalungu and Mafanyani Mario Helton Sibia were arrested with a 375 firearm while attempting to hunt rhino on a game farm.
Manyaleti, (Limpopo): Abraham Given Nyathi, Dennis Oros Makhubela and Jimmy Mkansi were arrested with a .303 rifle, bow saw and butchers knife while attempting to hunt rhino on a game farm.
Assen, (North West): Alex Nyatlo, Karaboe Phetoe, Zola Ngijima, Nduduzi Khanile and Lebitia Japie Sedie were arrested while attempting to hunt rhino on a game farm.
Pretoriuskop, (Mpumalanga): Abrey Mnisi and Pride Nkuna were arrested with a .3006 rifle while attempting to hunt rhino in the Kruger National Park.
Sabie Sands, (Mpumalanga): Moosa Hlanane, Proby Nyathi, Devine Nyathi and Sam Mlotshwa were arrested while attempting to hunt rhino on the game reserve.
Pretoriuskop, (Mpumalanga): 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. All four were SANParks employees. After a lengthy bail application hearing bail was eventually denied to all four.
In Kempton Park, (Gauteng): Hui Chen was arrested for the illegal possession of rhino horn, elephant ivory curios and hippo tusk to the value of R 30 000.
Kempton Park, (Gauteng) : 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 JosephNyalunga and 8 others were arrested on the 2 March 2012 outside Hazyview. During the operation over R 5 million rand 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 disrupted by the Hawks. Four Chinese nationals were arrested and charges of racketeering are being brought against them. The value of their operation is estimated at R 3 Million. The accused are still in custody.
In middle March an operation 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 resulted in the arrest of Kevin Cooper for the illegal possession of 15 rhino horns and 6 elephant tusks. 15 homesteads in the Mkuze, Ulundi, Mahlabatini, Melmoth, Ubombo that were linked to rhino poachers were searched. R500 000-00 worth of wildlife products 8 firearms were seized and 8 suspects arrested.
In Bethlehem, (Free State) Nicolaas Erasmus, Benjamin Coetzee and Stephanus Fourie were arrested for the illegal dealing in two rhino horns. The matter was postponed for to a later date in May 2012.
In Hoopstad (Free State) 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.
These cases depict the widespread challenge of rhino poaching. On the other hand, the efforts of the joint security forces should be acknowledged because several accused were caught as they were attempting to poach rhino. It is against this backdrop that we welcome the seizure of assets and call for assets of every person arrested to be scrutinized and where possible, seized. The seizure of the assets of rhino poaching accused is what we believe will hurt the most. Generally, those that commit such crimes will serve their sentences but still come back to a life of luxury by by seizing assets, criminals have no worldly possessions to enjoy and this certainly helps send out a clear message that crime does not pay.
Thus far the Endangered Species Unit within the HAWKS have secured a total of 10 convictions amounting to a consolidated total of 111 years imprisonment in respect of these 10 accused.
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 the accused sentenced to a fine. However in 12 of these cases the accused were sentenced to direct imprisonment without an 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 96 accused have been released on bail.
The National Joint Operational Centre
Vishnu Naidoo - Colonel
National Media Centre
South African Police Service
Cell: 082 567 4153
Fax: +2712-400 7018