R11m in assets seized from game farmer

Johannesburg - Law enforcement agencies on Friday seized R11m in assets from a Limpopo game farmer convicted of dealing in rhino horns.

Police spokesperson Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi said the assets are believed to have been acquired by Jan Karel Pieter Els, from Thabazimbi, through criminal activities.

The assets included a Toyota Fortuner, a Toyota Hilux, a BMW motorbike, two Bombardier ATV motorbikes, and household goods.

Els further lost his game farm in Thabazimbi, company shares, and the contents of his bank accounts.

In March this year Els was convicted of illegally dealing in 38 rhino horns in 2009 and 2010. He had bought seven rhinos from the Limpopo Valley Conservancy in Musina, informing the environmental affairs department that he was taking them to Thabazimbi.

"Instead he dehorned five rhinos without a permit in Musina and moved some without horns," Malaudzi said.
Els also bought 30 horns from a manager at the Maremani Nature Reserve in Musina, Tommy Fourie. All were taken to Thabazimbi without a permit.

"All the horns involved were never recovered, since he claimed that they were all stolen from his farm," Malaudzi said.

Despite his claims of innocence, Els was convicted of illegally dealing in 38 rhino horns with a total value of R11.4m. The court also ordered him to pay R1m to the National Wildlife Crime Reaction Unit fund.

Els asked for leave to appeal, but this was turned down. He is currently serving a 10-year sentence at Sinthumule Kutama Prison. Two of those years were suspended.

Fourie committed suicide in November 2010, after being arrested with Els.

Friday's asset seizure was a joint effort between the endangered species unit of the Hawks, the National Prosecuting Authority, the Asset Forfeiture Unit, and Environmental Affairs.

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