State to keep illegal rhino trade cash

2015-07-21 09:08

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Pietermaritzburg - The High Court in Pietermaritzburg has granted an order to preserve R68 000 cash that the State seized as proceeds of the illegal sale of two white rhino horns from KwaZulu-Natal.

The asset forfeiture unit will apply for the money to be forfeited to the state in terms of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act (Poca), in due course.

According to papers before high court Judge Yvonne Mbatha on Monday, the two micro-chipped rhino horns involved had been issued to an agent by Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife (EKZNW) as part of an undercover anti-poaching operation.

They were then sold to Chinese buyers with alleged links to the Chinese mafia in Johannesburg in January 2010.

Pinetown broker Carel Nel and a struck–off former attorney, Suraj Rampersad, were arrested and are currently awaiting trial in the Pinetown Magistrate’s Court on a charge of illegally dealing in rhino horns.

'Project Wizard'

Police warrant officer Riaan van Rooyen, a member of the anti-poaching rhino task team and manager of “Project Wizard”, said the operation was set up after he received information from a professional hunter who said he was approached by Nel and Rampersad to supply rhino horns for sale in Johannesburg.

Van Rooyen obtained authorisation to use the hunter as a police agent, and arranged for microchipped rhino horns to be supplied by EKZNW.

According to Van Rooyen, following his arrest, Nel had co-operated with police and made a statement setting out his involvement in the sale of the horns.

He told police he met Rampersad in 2009 and they became friends. Between October and December 2009 Rampersad told him about Chinese individuals looking to buy rhino horns in Johannesburg, and that they could make good money out of this. Nel agreed to join the endeavour and an attempt was made to sell a horn in Johannesburg. However, Nel said, on that occasion the buyer would not buy the horn because it was rotten, said Van Rooyen.

Nel then approached the hunter, as he hoped he might know people who could supply rhino horns.

The undercover operation was then launched.

Van Rooyen said the two rhino horns were sold by the hunter, Rampersad and Nel in Johannesburg in January 2010. Afterwards he received two amounts of R48 000 and R20 000 respectively, which represented the hunter’s “share” of the proceeds of the sale of the horns.

The money is in the custody of the police.

Van Rooyen said the date for Nel and Rampersad’s trial in Pinetown is expected to be set at the end of this month.

Read more on:    durban  |  pietermaritzburg  |  crime  |  conservation  |  rhino poaching
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