Rhino horn boss's bail decision postponed

2011-08-31 17:00
Johannesburg - The bail decision for the alleged leader of a rhino poaching syndicate would be announced on Thursday, the SA Revenue Service said.

"The bail application will continue tomorrow at 09:00.... [It was] postponed for the magistrate to read the documents," said spokesperson Adrian Lackay on Wednesday.

Chumlong Lemtongthai, 43, appeared on Wednesday in Kempton Park Magistrate's Court. He last appeared in court on July 22.

National Prosecuting Authority prosecutor Allen Simpson said that invoices from Lemtongthai's company, Xaysavang Trading Export Import, should be taken as part of the charge sheet.

The amounts reflected on the invoices indicated there was a monetary offence involved and therefore it should be seen as a schedule five offence. Schedule five offences require that evidence be presented to support the bail application.

Whistleblower


Lemtongthai was arrested after John Olivier, a Thai Airways manager who allegedly worked with the syndicate, decided to inform authorities of the syndicate's activities.

Olivier told police that a game farmer, Marnus Steyl, would apparently source rhinos for "canned hunting", then inform Lemtongthai.

Steyl told Beeld that his role was entirely above board.

Lemtongthai then allegedly contacted Punpitak Chunchom, telling him that "hunters" were needed to shoot these rhino.

Chunchom - who has since left South Africa after pleading guilty to illegal possession of lion bones - would recruit Thai strippers and prostitutes to pose with the rhino carcasses.

Lemtongthai allegedly organised permits and covered the costs of the operation.

R65 000 per kilogram

The horns would be dried and 'sold' to front company Xaysavang Trading Export Import - owned by Lemtongthai - for about R65 000 per kilogram. They would then be sold on the Asian black market for between US$35 000 (about R247 900) and US$55 000 (about R389 600).

By this method, loopholes in legislation allowing 'trophy hunting' and regulations limiting hunting to one rhino a year per hunter were exploited to supply rhino horns.

Lackay said it was this aspect of the case that concerned Sars.

Lemtongthai was the only member of the alleged syndicate to be charged.

Gender and environmental activists gathered at the court ahead of Lemtongthai's bail application.

The ANC Women's League displayed placards reading "Real Men Don't Shoot Rhinos".

They wore green tape over their mouths in protest against the role Thai prostitutes were allegedly forced to play in the syndicate's activities.

An animal rights group held up gory pictures of butchered rhino carcasses.
- SAPA
Read more on:    sars  |  marnus steyl  |  chumlong lemtongthai  |  punpitak chunchom  |  poaching  |  rhino poaching
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