Vietnamese 'lion slaughterers' kicked out of SA

2019-07-10 14:43
Lion. (file)

Lion. (file)

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Six Vietnamese nationals arrested at the end of 2018 on various charges relating to the slaughter of lions have been ordered to leave South Africa.

It was reported that 40 lions were killed for their bones and other body parts, according to a statement by FOUR PAWS. 

Nine suspects appeared in the Klerksdorp Magistrate's Court in November 2018 on charges ranging from possession of illegal game products and without a permit, and carrying out restricted activities involving specimens of a listed, threatened or protected species. 

On June 25, four Vietnamese nationals were fined amounts ranging from R8 000 to R50 000 – which have since been paid.

The charges against two of the co-accused have been dropped.

According to Hawks spokesperson Captain Tlangelani Rikhotso, the accused were intercepted at the intersection of the N12 and Dominionville, driving in a convoy to an unused farm in Mareetsane on November 26 last year. During the search of two vehicles, the Hawks recovered lion bones, lion meat, a tiger skin, gas cylinders, gas burners, containers, a saw, knives and other equipment which is believed to have been used to process the lion bones.

READ: 8 men arrested after dozens of lions killed in North West

"A sentence agreement was entered into between the State and Mguyel Huu Son, 30, Nguyen Taun, 33, Dao Thang, 38, Pham Kur, 56, Pham Xuan Chanh, 56, and Quol Thang, 60, who were arrested for illegal possession of game products on November 26, 2018. 

"On November 27, 2018, the accused made their first appearance in the Klerksdorp Magistrate's Court facing charges of the contravention of Section 57 of the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity (Nemba) Act.

"The Vietnamese nationals were joined by Louis Fouché, 22, Lourens Pretorius, 24, and Michael Frederich Fourie, 42, who were granted bail of R10 000 each, Rikhotso said. Bail for the six Vietnamese nationals was successfully opposed.

Leave the country at own cost

A sentence agreement was entered into where four of the accused were fined and received suspended sentences.

"The fines have subsequently been paid by the accused and [all six] have since been declared undesirable persons and ordered to leave the country immediately at [their] own cost. Fouché, Pretorius and Fourie will be appearing at the Klerksdorp Magistrate's Court on July 23," Rikhotso said. 

Police & Hawks officer recovered lion and tiger bo

Police and Hawks officers recover lion and tiger bones during the arrest of eight men near Klerksdorp on November 25, 2018. (Supplied: Hawks)

According to its statement, FOUR PAWS believes the sentences are a mere slap on the wrist and that harsher sentences should be handed down.  

"This again shows the lack of a proper deterrent to prevent the occurrence of these atrocious actions. Although found guilty, this practice will continue to flourish, says Fiona Miles, director of FOUR PAWS in South Africa. 

"The sentencing was a mere slap on the wrist and lacks the impact of preventing this to happen again. South Africa has reached the point where a serious intervention needs to take place to protect these animals against the severe cruelty they face."

On Wednesday, 32 South African and international conservation, welfare and advocacy organisations wrote to the National Director of Public Prosecutions, Shamila Batohi.

'Weak penalties'

"We believe that the weak penalties and poor legal enforcement have made wildlife crime a lucrative and low-risk activity in South Africa for criminal syndicates," says Miles.

"Collectively, we believe there is a need to, among others, raise and enforce the penalties for wildlife crime, establish specialist wildlife criminal courts staffed by highly skilled wildlife criminal prosecutors and magistrates, and provide specialised training for prosecutors, especially in magisterial areas in close proximity to key national provincial game reserves," Miles said.  

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