‘Forfeit money linked to poaching’

2015-10-15 10:31
(Ben Curtis, AP)

(Ben Curtis, AP)

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Pietermaritzburg - The Pietermaritzburg High Court has been asked to forfeit an amount of R7 420 linked to alleged rhino poaching to the state.

The money was confiscated when two men were found with a bag containing two horns in their car in March 2013.

The two, Israel Khoza and Thulani Mbatha, were found guilty of two charges relating to the illegal hunting of rhino last year.

They were each sentenced to six months’ imprisonment and fines of R1 000 (or three months’ imprisonment).

Yesterday’s application was adjourned until November 19 pending possible opposition to the forfeiture of the money.

According to court papers, the horns were linked via DNA to a white rhino female that was shot dead by poachers at Ithala Game Reserve in the Louwsburg area in KZN in March 2013.

Wildlife crimes investigator Warrant Officer Riaan van Rooyen said in an affidavit the rhino’s carcass, with both horns removed, was found on March 26.

He had sent the horns for analysis after they were recovered, and the DNA matched that of the poached rhino at Ithala.

The court was also told that four cellphones found in Khoza and Mbatha’s possession established that they were in contact with “known rhino smugglers”.

The men were stopped while driving in the vicinity of the Blood River crossing by officers who asked Khoza, who was driving, to produce his driver’s licence.

He allegedly produced a licence in the name of M.N. Zungu.

On searching the car the policemen found a black plastic bag. Initially Mbatha said he did not know what was in the bag.

However, after the officers found the two horns in the bag, Mbatha said they had bought them from someone in Vryheid. However, the men said they could not say who the seller was.

Cash of R5 335 was found in Khoza’s pockets and R2 085 was recovered from Mbatha.

The national deputy director of public prosecutions Kenneth Samuel said the evidence pointed to the money being the proceeds of crime.

He said Khoza and Mbatha had revealed at their trial that they were unemployed, and neither could explain how they came to have the cash. He added that they had made no attempt to reclaim the money to date

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  rhino poachers  |  court

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