Thai ‘rhino hunters’ and ‘broker’ in court

2011-11-09 00:00

MARNUS Steyl, the owner of a Free State game farm, yesterday appeared in the Kempton Park Regional Court along with two Thai “rhino hunters” for whom he had allegedly acted as a middle man. The case relates to the existence of a suspected rhino horn syndicate.

The two Thai citizens are Chumlong Lemtongthai and Puntipak Chunchom.

Magistrate Prince Mayathi adjourned the case until January 20, 2012, for further investigation and for the state could make certain documents available to the defence.

The trial date was provisionally set for June next year.

Steyl was released on bail of R100 000. Lemtongthai and Chunchom are being held in custody.

Chunchom, who was arrested with another Thai citizen, Supacht Ramangkoon, at O.R. Tambo airport last Friday, is expected to apply for bail soon.

Chunchom was fined R10 000 in June after pleading guilty to the illegal possession of lion bones.

This followed a raid by the police, members of the SA Revenue Service enforcement unit and the Hawks on an Edenvale residence on the East Rand, when Lemtongthai was also arrested.

The public prosecutor, Advocate Allen Simpson, said that, among other counts, all three men face charges relating to contraventions of the Biodiversity Act and fraud arising from the use of permits issued for rhino hunting and then used to export the horns.

Lemtongthai bought the rhino horns for R65 000/kg.

Ramangkoon, who appeared separately, admitted to contravening excise legislation, among others, by not declaring $4 000 and other foreign currency amounting to about R35 000 in all when he arrived for a two-week holiday in South Africa last Friday.

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