MTPA rhino theft suspect an informer, court hears

2014-06-22 22:20
(File, AFP)

(File, AFP)

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Mbombela - The Nelspruit Regional Court has heard that one of the men implicated in the theft of 112 pieces of rhino horn from a strong room at the Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency (MTPA) was a police informer who knew where horns were being sold in Mozambique.

Sizwe Leonard Malatjie (34) pleaded not guilty to charges of housebreaking and theft during his bail application in the Nelspruit Magistrate’s Court on Friday.

He appeared alongside his co-accused, Gideon Mtshali (51), who has also pleaded not guilty to the same charges.

State prosecutor Ansie Venter told Malatjie that he used his knowledge of rhino horn trading areas in Mozambique to sell the horns in Magudu Kanyini in Mozambique.

This came after Venter asked Malatjie why, in his evidence, he left out the fact that he was in possession of tracking devices during his arrest.

"You took almost two hours on Thursday telling this court about everything you suffered during your arrest. Why didn't you tell the court about the tracking devices which were found in your possession. Can you please tell the court about them?" said Venter.

Malatjie told the court that he was asked by a man named Jasper to collect the device and use it if he spots rhino poachers entering the Kruger National Park near Luphisi.

"I was called by Jasper to collect the device from his car in White River. Inside the car I found a man wearing a ranger uniform," said Malatjie.

He said Jasper and three other people called Don English, Selby Khoza and De Beer asked him to help them by informing them when he sees rhino poachers entering the Kruger.

When asked how he knew the men would be rhino poachers Malatjie said he was an informer.

"By that am I correct to say you were a police informer," said Venter.

"Yes," said Malatjie.

"So I put it to you that with the knowledge you had as an informer and your connection in Mozambique and accused number one as an interpreter for you, you went to Mozambique in Magudu to sell the horns stolen from the MTPA in Mataffin," said Venter.

Venter further asked Malatjie to explain an amount of R130 000 found hidden at his sister's premises next to a pit toilet.

Malatjie claimed they were his legal savings dating back to 2011.

"Yes, I went to the MTPA offices in Mataffin with the police officer and after that we went to dig up the money in my sister's yard, which has been my saving place," said Malatjie.

"Why not keep the money in the bank?" asked Venter.

Malatjie told the court that he has a bank account but buried the money to prevent others from gaining access to it.

"Two weeks before I was arrested criminals came to my house and demanded money; so I didn't want people to know I have money. I then went to bury that money near the pit toilet," Malatjie said.

Malatjie was arrested on 7 June while Mtshali was arrested on 6 June.

Magistrate Christa du Plessis postponed the bail application to 2 July.

Read more on:    mbombela  |  rhino poaching

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