Rhino horns worth millions seized at OR Tambo

SARS customs agents at OR Tambo International Airport seized millions of rands worth of rhino horns that had been coated with hard wax. (Supplied)
SARS customs agents at OR Tambo International Airport seized millions of rands worth of rhino horns that had been coated with hard wax. (Supplied)

Johannesburg – The latest in a series of attempts to smuggle millions of rands worth of rhino horns from South Africa has failed.

Customs officials seized 28.7kg of rhino horn worth R6 million at OR Tambo International Airport on Wednesday, SARS spokesperson Sandile Memela said.

Officials spotted the horns when a traveller’s check-in bag was put through a scanner.

"SARS officials found five rhino horns that had been coated with between one and two centimetres of hard wax, and wrapped in newspaper. The wax was obviously used to disguise the horns from the canine unit’s horn-sniffing dogs."

Hawks spokesperson Captain Carol Mulamu said a Vietnamese citizen was arrested and would appear in the Kempton Park Magistrate's Court soon.

Wednesday's arrest was SARS’s second major rhino horn bust at the airport in three days. On Sunday, 10 horns, worth about R5m were confiscated. Two Chinese nationals, Bo Yong, 57, and Yue Sun, 35, were pulled off a Turkish Airlines flight bound for Istanbul shortly before take-off.

Customs agents discovered full-sized rhino horns packed in their bags in the plane’s cargo hold. They had been booked on a connecting flight from Istanbul to Hong Kong.

On Tuesday, customs officers in Ho Chi Minh City seized nearly 4kg of African rhino horn from two Vietnamese nationals at Tan Son Nhat Airport. The 36-year-old man and 32-year-old woman were detained after customs officials spotted them acting suspiciously, the Tien Phong newspaper reported. They had returned from Africa.

The horns had a Vietnamese street value of nearly $352,000 (R4.5m).

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