Interpol arrests two Limpopo brothers for fraud, money laundering

2017-06-22 22:46
Rhino horns (File, AFP)

Rhino horns (File, AFP)

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Polokwane - The Interpol task team has arrested professional hunting brothers, Dawie Groenewald, and Janneman, in Polokwane, Limpopo.

Their arrest early on Thursday morning comes exactly a week after the state’s long-running case against Dawie Groenewald, his wife Sariette and nine others was postponed again in the Pretoria High Court. 

It is understood Janneman was arrested at his home, while Dawie was said to have handed himself to the authorities.

While details around the Thursday's raid remain sketchy, Hawks spokesperson Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi confirmed the arrest of the brothers at their homes, in order to facilitate the US government’s request for the brothers’ extradition to face charges there.

"Interpol executed an international warrant of arrest issued from the USA where Mr Groenewald and his brother are wanted for various charges by the US Department of Justice. They were assisted by the Limpopo Endangered Species Unit, and the Tactical Response Unit," Mulaudzi said.

The US indictment, issued in 2014, charges Dawie and Janneman Groenewald, and their company Valinor Trading CC (d/b/a Out of Africa Adventurous Safaris) with conspiracy, Lacey Act violations, mail fraud, money laundering and structuring bank deposits to avoid reporting requirements.  

The Lacey Act is the US' oldest criminal statute addressing illegal poaching and wildlife trafficking, making it a crime to sell animal hunts conducted in violation of state, federal, tribal and foreign law.

Nine American hunters paid up to $15 000 (R650 000) per animal for a total of 11 hunts sold at hunting conventions and gun shows in the United States between 2005 and 2010.

The hunters were tricked by the Groenewalds into believing they were shooting legally at "problem" rhino. The Groenewalds obtained no hunting permits from the South African or local government, and the hunters never received the horn "trophies", the indictment said.

Extradition 

The hunts took place at Prachtig, the ranch in Musina, Limpopo, which is co-owned by the Groenewalds and American investors, according to the indictment.

Both Groenewald brothers are South African nationals. Janneman lived and operated out of Alabama's Autauga County, where he maintained company bank accounts.

Asked why it had taken so long for Interpol to act and serve the Groenewalds with the US Department of Justice’s warrant of arrest for extradition, issued in 2014, Mulaudzi told News24:

"There are certain treaties and agreements that need to be followed. There are also procedures and due processes that need to be adhered to, and eventually, when both countries reach an understanding, those warrants can be executed. Crime has no boundaries.

"The warrant comes from Interpol, not from the South African authorities, and when we received it, we executed. They were arrested this morning, and are currently in court in Polokwane where they are expected to appear,” Mulaudzi said.

"Interpol is going to oppose any immediate bail application, and this will necessitate them to do a proper profiling of Janneman Groenewald, Mr Groenewald’s younger brother. This is necessary to make sure the case against them is tight when they apply for bail in perhaps seven days so that the court has enough evidence about him and his dealings," Mulaudzi said. 

Asked whether the authorities believed the extradition application would succeed, Mulaudzi added:
"They are extremely confident. The criminal court case here will still continue, but it will depend on the Department of Justice, Interpol and the NPA to establish which cases they will prioritise".

Dawie, his wife Sariette, and nine others, including two vets and professional hunters, were arrested on World Rhino day, September 2010, and face a massive total of 1872 charges, but have managed to stave off prosecution since their arrest.

Authorities excavated the carcases of 26 rhinos they allege were illegally hunted and dehorned without permits.

That case was postponed until January 29th, 2018. Asked to comment on the arrest of Dawie, Sariette told News24:

"I don't know anything about it. Listen, I have been divorced since two years ago. Leave me alone".

            

Read more on:    polokwane  |  rhino poaching

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