Police nab suspected rhino horn kingpin

2012-03-05 00:00

THE man alleged to be one of the most wanted masterminds in the rhino poaching underworld was arrested in Hazyview, Mpumalanga, at the weekend.

Former police officer Joseph “Big Joe” Nyalunga (48) was arrested on Friday night during a stop and search operation at a shopping centre. Four horns, two large and two smaller ones, were allegedly found behind the seat of his Colt bakkie.

It is suspected that these were the horns of the two rhinos killed in the Kruger Park last week. Four park staff, including two game guides, have been arrested in connection with that incident.

Sister paper Beeld learnt that police also found R66 000 cash on Nyalunga and a further R5,1 million hidden in trunks at his three houses in Hazyview.

In addition, police also allegedly found a variety of firearms, about 70 pangas, axes, knives and other equipment that could be used in rhino poaching, and several stolen TV sets and laptops.

A source told Beeld that Nyalunga has been on the police’s radar for a long while in connection with poaching.

Just days before the Kruger Park incident last week, Nyalunga was allegedly seen in the company of a senior park official.

Less than three months ago, millions of rands were seized from Nyalunga when he and a Hazyview police constable were arrested at the Middelburg toll plaza. At the time, R3,2 million was found in his Range Rover.

Beeld has also learnt that he recently paid R1 million for a rhino horn in a police trap.

Nyalunga resigned from the police three years ago after being charged with involvement in a syndicate smuggling cigarettes and vehicles to and from Mozambique. He was in court last Tuesday in connection with that case.

He has also been charged with murder after he allegedly beat a man to death in Hazyview in 2010 and threw his body in a dam, bound hand and foot with wire and attached to a rock.

This case has been provisionally withdrawn pending further investigation.

Police spokesperson Colonel Vishnu Naidoo confirmed last night that Nyalunga is in custody.

His lawyer, Coert Jordaan, also confirmed that he is in custody, but said he has not been instructed in the matter. Nyalunga is set to appear in court today.

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