Suspected poaching ring leader held at OR Tambo

2011-11-04 10:34
Johannesburg - A Thai man, believed to be an associate of alleged rhino poaching syndicate kingpin Chumlong Lemtongthai, was detained at OR Tambo international airport on Friday morning, the SA Revenue Service (Sars) said.

"He is being detained and questioned at OR Tambo by Customs and the Hawks," Sars spokesperson Adrian Lackay said.

The man was detained during a joint operation as part of an investigation into rhino horn poaching and smuggling to East Asia.

"The suspect was found guilty previously in a South African court for smuggling animal products like lion bones. He was fined R10 000, which he paid. He then left the country."

Lackay said the man's return was believed to be with the "aim to get involved in further illicit activities".

He was stopped by SA officials between 06:30 and 07:00 when his flight from Thailand landed.

The man is believed to be an associate of Lemtongthai and they were believed to be key figures central to an international poaching syndicate, Lakay said.

In September, the Kempton Park Magistrate's Court ruled that Lemtongthai was a flight risk, but he challenged Magistrate Eric Mhlari's decision this week, saying it was unconstitutional to deny him bail because he was not a South African, The Saturday Star newspaper reported.

No further details were immediately available.

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