Serial rhino poaching brothers denied bail by Limpopo court

2017-06-06 18:43
The alleged rhino poachers arrested. (Supplied)

The alleged rhino poachers arrested. (Supplied)

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Louis Trichardt – Two brothers accused of rhino poaching, Deon and Niklaas van Deventer, and Onward Muchangowa - a Zimbabwean national - were denied bail on Friday after a marathon five-month bail hearing in the Makhado Magistrate's Court.

"The court did not deem it in the interest of justice that they be released," said Mashudu Malabi-Dzanghi, spokesperson for the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA).

The Van Deventer brothers are repeat offenders who have had multiple run-ins with the law. They have both served time in the Kroonstad Prison for a string of rhino poaching offences.

In 2006, they were linked to a bloody trail of at least 22 dead rhino that had been poached in various locations around South Africa.

Then in 2007, while on bail and unaware that they were under surveillance, they were caught red-handed as they exited iMfolozi Game Park in Zululand, after killing and dehorning rhinos.

The trio was arrested in January 2017, following a tip-off that they had attempted to sell rhino horns in the Makhado area.

Members of the Limpopo Stock Theft and Endangered Species Unit tailed their vehicle for a distance. They saw them toss two plastic-wrapped rhino horns out of the window of their vehicle, before fleeing.

After a multi-vehicle high-speed chase, the men were pulled over and arrested at a police roadblock near Makhado.

The men face charges of illegal possession of two rhino horns from a rhino that was poached at a Limpopo farm near Witpoort. The horns have subsequently been forensically matched to the Witpoort incident, through DNA analysis.

'Countless previous convictions'

Additionally, the Van Deventer brothers have been charged with killing the rhino.

Both Deon and Niklaas testified during their bail applications that the rhino horn did not belong to them, but rather to a certain Ruben. Their defence was that they had intended to contact the police to hand over information about Ruben, so that in turn they could be registered as police informants.

During his judgment on Friday, Magistrate Bennie Smit said he had taken into consideration their previous convictions, and was of the opinion that there was likelihood that the brothers would commit further schedule 1 offences if they were released on bail.

"Accused 1 and 2 have countless previous convictions, many of them relating to environmental issues and rhino poaching. Deon van Deventer committed three further rhino poachings after he was released on bail in 2007. Therefore, there is a likelihood that they would commit other offences whilst out on bail," he said.

In denying bail to Muchangowa, who faces charges of selling the horns, Smit said: "He is a foreigner with strong ties to his native home. His assets are all movable, and the State's case against him is strong.

"Therefore, the court is of the opinion that there is a likelihood the accused could abscond, taking into consideration the seriousness of the offences for which he is charged."

The case was postponed to July 10 for further investigation.


Read more on:    polokwane  |  rhino poaching

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