Two Czech Republic nationals found guilty of trafficking succulent plant species

2019-09-21 11:00
Nature reserve. (Ethan Van Diemen, News24)

Nature reserve. (Ethan Van Diemen, News24)

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Two Czech Republic men have been found guilty of trafficking succulent plant species from South Africa and have been banned from entering the country again.

Jaromir Chvastek, 65, and Tomas Malir, 56, who form part of a syndicate group pillaging succulent plants in the Western Cape and Northern Cape were arrested after over 900 protected plant species were found in their possession.

According to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), the two men were arrested in Rietpoort, Western Cape on August 7, following a tip about a suspicious-looking vehicle with two occupants.

"They were found with 728 plant species listed as protected flora, 89 listed as vulnerable, 105 listed as rare, and 10 listed as critically rare," NPA spokesperson Eric Ntabazalila said in a statement.

"They were charged with possession of flora without documentation, picking of protected flora without [a] permit and picking of flora without written permission of the landowner."

Chvastek and Malir arrived in South Africa in July this year but had visited the country six times before, between March 2017 and August 2019.

In their plea agreement, both men said they visited South Africa with the intent to collect various species of flora, State Advocate Aradhana Heeranum said.

She added that Chvastek operated a website in the Czech Republic in which a wide variety of succulent plants, including South African species, were sold.

"The entire collection had financial gain as its primary objective. The accused are part of at least ten groups apprehended with illegally collected succulents in their possession in the Western Cape and the Northern Cape," Heeranum said.

Both men were sentenced to two years direct imprisonment, wholly suspended for five years on condition that both accused are not convicted of any offence relating to picking, possession and collection of flora committed during the period of suspension.

The Cape Town Regional Court also ordered that both men leave South Africa immediately after the case has been finalised and are never allowed to enter the country again.

"It [the court] granted the state a confiscation order of R1m in respect of both accused. The court ordered that R500 000 be paid into the Criminal Asset Recovery Account (CARA) and R500 000 to Cape Nature. Lastly, the court ordered that all flora seized be declared forfeited to Cape Nature," Ntabazalila said.

"The NPA welcomes the sentence and the banning order issued by the courts as environmental crimes especially on our rare species are proving to be common in the Western Cape."

Read more on:    cape town  |  courts  |  crime  |  conservation
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