Dodgy rhino deal leads to fine for Limpopo man

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A Limpopo man who faces a string of criminal charges together with alleged rhino horn kingpin Dawie Groenewald, has been fined R100 000 in a separate matter.

Nardus Rossouw, a professional hunter who was charged along with Groenewald's Musina Mafia in 2010, appeared in the Mokopane Regional Court on Tuesday after spending the last year in police custody for illegally trafficking rhino horns without permits.

He is the first of Groenewald's co-accused to be convicted of and sentenced for illegally trafficking rhino horn.

Rossouw chose to pay the fine rather than the alternate five-year prison sentence, but was not released from custody.  He remains behind bars for violating bail conditions applicable to his 2010 arrest.

He could remain in jail until the Groenewald trial starts in 2021, pending a successful appeal. Rossouw also forfeited his previous bail of R20 000.

Dodgy scheme

Rossouw was fingered after a dodgy scheme designed to outwit Limpopo conservation officials and sell horns illegally on the black market went sour.

According to the charge sheet, a number of rhinoceros were legally dehorned on April 5, 2016 at a Lephalale game farm belonging to Adriaan Du Plessis, leaving him as the registered owner of 11 rhino horns.

However, after experiencing a problem with the micro-chip scanner, Rossouw suggested the horns be taken to a veterinarian for scanning.

After the scanning was finished, a Limpopo Environment department (LEDET) officer instructed Rossouw to take the horns back to Du Plessis.

Less than a month later, members of the Hawks arranged an undercover operation after receiving information about a possible illegal rhino horn deal that was about to go down.

Three people were later arrested with 18 rhino horns, and further investigations established that seven of the horns originated from the recent dehorning at Du Plessis' farm. 

Du Plessis acknowledged that he unlawfully gave 11 rhino horns to Rossouw without him being in possession of a valid permit.

As part of a plea agreement, Du Plessis was sentenced to a R200 000 or five years' imprisonment, half of which was suspended.

Illegal dehorning

Coincidentally, the charges Rossouw and Du Plessis were convicted of, are similar to some of the charges on the Groenewald charge sheet.

According to that dossier, Rossouw allegedly conspired with Du Plessis in 2009 to dehorn rhinos illegally and sell the horns at a profit.  

While the Groenewald Gang case has been postponed multiple occasions since 2010 due to challenges from the defence and the lack of readiness of the State to proceed, Rossouw is listed as a central player in that enterprise.

READ: Interpol arrests two Limpopo brothers for fraud, money-laundering

Groenewald allegedly illegally lured wealthy American hunters to hunt rhinos at his Musina farm Prachtig, and sourced rhino horns from other farmers for the illegal international black market.

In September 2010, Groenewald, Rossouw and nine others were arrested after twenty-six rhino carcasses were excavated at Groenewald's property. Their horns are alleged to have been sold to Asian crime syndicates in violation of international laws and treaties.

In 2014, the United States Department of Justice appealed to South Africa to extradite Groenewald and his brother Janneman to face criminal charges there, including money laundering and violations of the Lacey Act, the USA's oldest environmental law.

The process stalled last year after a Limpopo court overturned their arrest by Interpol.

 ALSO READ: Alleged rhino poaching brothers win bail, vow to fight US extradition


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