Three men accused of smuggling at least one lion cub into Athlone in the southern suburbs of Cape Town made their first appearance in the Wynberg Magistrate's Court this week.
The accused are Shurud Jacobs, Moegamat Rayaan Simons and Sulaiman Effendi - who is the son of convicted killer Najwa Dirk, also known as Najwa Petersen.
Detectives from organised crime investigations had found a fluffy lion cub at Effendi's home in Athlone last week, after following up on information that the cub had been transported from Thabazimbi, north west of Pretoria, to the Western Cape.
They searched various addresses in Athlone, before locating it and taking it to a place of safety.
The cub had an estimated street value of R50 000.
Photos and videos
At the time, police said three people had been taken in for questioning.
Various photos and videos emerged of the lion cub, as well as a man playing out a scene from the The Lion King while holding the wild animal.
Before his arrest, Jacobs denied to News24 that he was one of those pictured or captured on video.
"It's not me. Everyone thinks it is," he said.
"Friends that I know have been calling. It's actually getting irritating. I am going to report them... take it further. That they are making accusations. I think they have got the wrong person."
He did not reply to questions about whether he was one of those taken in for questioning.
Effendi's girlfriend, beauty blogger and social media influencer Qaanita Orrie, posted a statement on her Instagram account, after "something broke out on social media relating to my boyfriend".
"I need to make it clear that I neither support nor condone the illegal possession or smuggling of wild animals," she said in the statement.
"I am honestly devastated at what has happened and hurt to have been made a part of it all. I am and forever will be a passionate animal lover."
Western Cape police spokesperson Captain FC Van Wyk said on Thursday that three men - aged 28, 29 and 31 - had been arrested on Tuesday and had appeared in court on Wednesday for allegedly possessing a protected animal.
It was revealed in court that authorities were apparently searching for a second lion cub that was smuggled along with the first one, Daily Voice reported.
Van Wyk would only confirm that the investigation by the police's stock and endangered species unit was ongoing.
National Prosecuting Authority regional spokesperson Eric Ntabazalila said the accused had each been granted bail of R5 000.
Their case has been postponed to November 27 for further investigation.
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