Friday 19 September 2014

Hawks arrest major Rhino poaching syndicate members

The alleged kingpin of one of South Africa’s biggest and most violent rhino poaching syndicates,
accused of obtaining 84 rhino horns via illegal means, was arrested on Friday morning in front of the
Pretoria North Magistrate’s Court.

Among the other syndicate members arrested was the alleged right-hand-man, a Warrant Officer for the Organised Crime Unit in Pretoria, as well as the alleged kingpin’s wife, attorney, brother, a pilot and a professional poacher.

Nine of members of the syndicate were arrested, while another one of the members handed himself over to police.

The syndicate is believed to be responsible for the brutal slaughter and mutilation of 24 rhino, including a pregnant  cow and a small calf, in state and privately owned reserves around the country
between June 2008 and June 2012. Of the poached rhino, 22 were darted with a potent drug, known as M99, used by poachers to knock out rhinos. The other two rhino were shot with a firearm.
Only two of the poached rhino survived the attacks.

The syndicate operated in the Limpopo, Mpumalanga, North-West, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and the Free State.

Tthe syndicate’s main aim was to sell as many horns as possible to the Eastern black market, specifically Vietnam.

The syndicate is alleged to have obtained up to 84 rhino horns by poaching rhino, as well as stealing
the horns and obtaining them in other illegal ways: 41 of the horns were taken from 24 rhino that were poached; 14 horns were stolen – some  taken from a government building in Giyani – and 29 were obtained by other means.

The 10 suspects are expected to appear in Hatfield court in Pretoria on Monday.

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