News24

No ruling yet in rhino horn case

2010-10-12 21:32

Pretoria - The North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria will rule on Friday if the criminal trial of three alleged rhino horn racketeers will be postponed or if the State should be ordered to withdraw the 50 charges against them.

Prosecutor Hein van der Merwe asked Judge Nomande Mngqibisa-Thusi to postpone the trial of safari operators Clayton Fletcher of Bloemfontein, Gert Saaiman of Pretoria and Pretoria hunter Frans Andries van Deventer to April next year.

This was to give the State the opportunity to consult properly with the on/off key witness in its case, Van Deventer's brother Deon.

Deon van Deventer and his brother Nic were sentenced to respectively eight and three years effective imprisonments in terms of a plea bargain agreement with the State, on condition that they became State witnesses against the three accused.

Both brothers thereafter refused to testify, but according to the State, Deon van Deventer had since changed his mind and was prepared to testify, although not at the moment as he feared for his safety in jail.

Deon van Deventer apparently made a statement in which he said his family was pressuring him and two private detectives had visited him in jail and offered him money not to testify.

Racketeering

Information also came to light that the same two men had offered a large sum of money to the former investigating officer to alter his evidence, resulting in a corruption docket being opened.

Van der Merwe said the State was in the process of arranging for Deon van Deventer, his former wife and children to be placed under witness protection.

Charges were earlier this week withdrawn against Kumaran Moodaly of Port Elizabeth, who would also become a State witness if the trial proceeded.

Van der Merwe described Deon van Deventer as the glue that held the mosaic of the State's case together as he was the only person who could give information from the first to the last incident.

He said without Deon van Deventer the State would not be able to prove racketeering charges against the three accused.