Namibian 'poacher' now in court for murder

2015-03-19 15:01


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Windhoek - Chiropractor Gerson Kandjii, already facing criminal charges related to the poaching of four critically endangered black rhino in the Etosha Park since November, this week on Thursday also appeared in a local court with four others on charges related to the murder of retired German industrialist Reinhard Schmidt last week.

Kandjii, until recently team doctor to the Namibian national soccer team, and his co-accused were not asked not plead in the Mariental lower court and the case postponed to 5 May to allow them to obtain legal representation, according to court records.

Kandjii and three other, different suspects were also arrested in November last year and charged with the poaching of three rhinos in Etosha.

He was granted bail in early January of R20 000 by the Okahao magistrates court, before a ballistics test positively linking his personal hunting rifle to the Etosha poaching became available, officials said.

“The bullets recovered from the carcasses in Etosha were a match for the accused’s gun,” Namibian Police’s Protected Resources Unit (PRU) commander Chief Inspector Barry de Klerk confirmed earlier in the week.

The second arrest came after an extensive manhunt was launched last Friday following the discovery last week Friday of Schmidt’s gagged and bound body in the house on his private hunting farm Hoodia outside Kalkrand, about 200km south of Windhoek.

Schmidt was believed to have suffocated to death after his attackers had tied him up and taped up his mouth and nose, police had told other local media.

The rifle was equipped with a silencer and high-powered telescope, as was a second, unlicensed rifle seized from third suspect Daniel Nghidinua arrested when he arrived in the area in September.


Nghidinua however had also been granted bail by the Okahao magistrates court, as the evidence - apart from possessing a fire-arm for which he had no license - was thin, Mpofu said.

“The ballistic linking Kandjii’s gun to the rhino poaching in Etosha was unfortunately not yet available,” he said. The entire case was moved to Outapi as a precautionary measure, he confirmed.

Kandjii was charged as fourth accused in the murder case along with four co-suspects Justus Domingo, Muadhila Nakapandi, Jason (Jackson) Stephanus and Irwin Tjituure.

In the Outapi docket, he was charged along with Daniel Nghidinua of Omakufo village, his nephew Stephanus Dawid of Peneyambeko Court in Windhoek and Martin Andami Kaninga of Okatjete for the illegal hunting of a protected species, as well as the illegal possession of a rifle and ammunition.

Kandjii and his co-suspects in the Outapi case had pleaded not guilty. His nephew and another suspect had brought a bail application as well, postponed to 12 March.

Police sources said that charges in connection with Schmidt’s murder were still being formulated, after the suspects were taken the scene of the crime this week.

Goods stolen from Schmidt’s farmstead has since been recovered that the suspects had sold.

Kandji and his five accomplices were also linked by police investigators to a mid-February farm attack near Aranos, about 150km south-east of Kalkrand.

In that case, five men had gained access to the Sandvlakte farmhouse of Johan Vermeulen, who was pistol-whipped, tied up and robbed of cash and valuables, including a vehicle that was late round abandoned near Stampriet.

Domingos and Nakapandi were suspected of leading the attack on Schmidt, while Kandjii and Stephanus (who also appeared to be a relative) had driven the get-away vehicle, sources close to the investigation said.

Black rhino

More fire-arms and expended ammunition were seized from the suspects, which could lead to further break-throughs in the ongoing rhino poaching cases elsewhere, sources said.

Kandjii and three of four co-accused in the rhino poaching case were first apprehended in late September in the Kamanjab district by local police after locals became suspicious of their behaviour.

PRU commander Barry de Klerk said although a rifle with silencer and telescope and a large amount of cash was found in their vehicle, no proof of any crime committed could be immediately found as the fire-arm was licensed to Kandjii.

His nephew Dawid Stephanus was later in November caught with Kandjii’s rifle in his possession, leading to Kandjii and Kaninga also being arrested in due course of investigations.

Gun licenses were not transferable, Mpofu pointed out in an interview in Outapi last week.

Court records showed that first accused Daniel Nghidinua was arrested late September last year at the Werda Gate, adjoining the Etosha Game Reserve.

Investigators said he had arrived in the area with a hunting rifle equipped with a telescope and silencer, as well as an ax, knives and a picture of a rhino and had wanted to know where to find rhinos.

Kamanjab is en route to the lower Kunene region and the communal conservancy areas where the world’s last free-roaming black rhino have been heavily poached since late 2012.

According to the official ministry of environment and tourism (MET) mortality data for Kunene, at least 20 critically endangered black rhino had been poached in this region between 2011 December 2014.

In 2013, 16 Kunene rhino, recognised as a sub-species for their adaption to the harsh desert conditions in this region were reported to have died in the Kunene, one of which was poached.

In 2014, 27 Kunene black rhino had died, 16 of which had been poached, according to the MET data, as compiled by the Save the Rhino Trust (SRT), an NGO that had been doing rhino monitoring since 1983 in the area.

These figures however excluded the four Etosha black rhino (for which Kandjii and accused now facing charges), as well as three more black rhinos poached at the Uukwaluudhi Lodge in August last year. A fourth rhino bull had later to be put down because of the severity of its injuries.

No further poaching was reported since late December, when certain internal reforms were implemented at the SRT and joint patrols with MET and Special Field Force staff increased.

This article was distributed by the Conservation Action Trust and is used with their permission.

Read more on:    namibia  |  rhino poaching

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