Owner of wildlife sanctuary sentenced for illegal rhino horn trading

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One of the rhino horns seized by the Hawks.
One of the rhino horns seized by the Hawks.
PHOTO: Supplied by Hawks
  • The owner of a wildlife sanctuary in Mpumalanga has been sentenced for selling rhino horns.
  • The Hawks arrested him and four others in 2018.
  • Deon Cornelius was found guilty of selling five rhino horns without a permit.

The owner of a wildlife sanctuary in Mpumalanga has been sentenced for selling five rhino horns without a permit.

The Middelburg Regional Court ordered Deon Cornelius, 48, the owner of Ubhetyan-o-Africa, to pay a fine of R10 000 or serve three years in prison. In addition, Cornelius has to pay R50 000 to the Mpumalanga Parks Board.

According to Mpumalanga Hawks spokesperson, Captain Dineo Lucy Sekgotodi, on 4 January 2018, the Hawks acted on information that a suspect from Gauteng was buying rhino horns from Cornelius without a permit.

Along with members of the police's dog unit, they conducted an operation on 5 January 2018 in which the suspect was stopped and searched after arriving in a white Lexus in the early hours of the morning.

Horn strapped to chassis

The horn of a white rhino, worth R175 000, was found attached to the chassis of the vehicle. Cable ties were used to hold it in place.

An amount of R699 129 in cash was also seized and a man and a woman, Yansen Feng and Lui Li Hong, were arrested.

On 12 January 2018, after a follow-up investigation, Joseph Albertus Du Plessis and Susanna Johanna Du Plessis were arrested in Bloemfontein.

Cornelius was later also arrested and charged. He was sentenced on Monday.

The case against the other four was finalised in 2018 and fines ranging from R20 000 to R60 000 were imposed.

Yansen was also sentenced to 18 months in prison, suspended for five years. He has to pay R1 million to Stop Rhino Poaching.

Provincial head of the Hawks, Major General Zodwa Mokoena, applauded the investigating team, prosecuting authorities and the judiciary.

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