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Syndicate members' assets seized

2010-05-07 22:28

Johannesburg - The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) has confiscated multi-million rand property belonging to members of a syndicate which allegedly hunted and smuggled rhinoceros horns, it said on Friday.

The NPA confiscated farms and aircraft belonging to the alleged members of the syndicate on Thursday and centralised their cases, which were being held in various courts across the country, said NPA spokesperson advocate Mthunzi Mhaga.

He said Nicolaas Barend van Deventer, Gideon Gerhardus van Deventer and Pieter Johannes Swart had already been convicted for their involvement.

Nicolaas van Deventer was sentenced to five years imprisonment, half of which was suspended; Gideon van Deventer received ten years, two of which were suspended for five years; and Swart was fined R50 000 or 12 months imprisonment.

Turned State witness

They had turned State witness against the other six, who would stand trial in the North Gauteng High Court on October 11, said Mhaga.

He said George Fletcher, Gerhardus Bartlomeus Saaiman, Frans Andries van Deventer and three others would face charges of racketeering, money laundering, theft, malicious damage to property and contravening provincial conservation acts and the Aviation Act.

"It is alleged that the accused committed these offences as members of a group consisting of hunters, a pilot, middlemen (agents) and buyers, who illegally hunted rhinos and traded in the horns stolen from the rhino carcasses."

They are accused of killing and cutting off the horns of 17 rhinos in the Kruger National Park, the Mfolozi National Park and game farms in the Bela Bela and Komatipoort districts during December 2005 and August 2006.

Joint unit operation

On Thursday, the Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU) confiscated an Aerostar small aeroplane allegedly used to transport the poachers to the game reserves, to spot the rhinos and transport their horns to Sandhurst Safaris, in Tosca, in the North West.

Seven farms in Tosca were also seized. They were registered in a trust, of which one of the accused was a trustee.

"There is also a helicopter, which is in Mozambique at present," Mhaga said.

"The criminal trial and asset forfeiture application are the results of an intensive joint operation between the Hawks unit of the (SA Police Service), the NPA's organised crime prosecution division and the AFU and the excellent cooperation between these departments," he said.