Suspected rhino poaching syndicate to appear in court
Activists for Animals Africa (AAA) say they will be at the Roodepoort Magistrate’s Court on the West Rand when 12 suspected rhino poachers‚ three of whom are police officers‚ appear in court.
The syndicate has been the subject of an investigation since 2013 and is alleged to have contributed to the illegal poaching of rhinos and illicit dealing in rhino horns in Klerksdorp‚ Rustenburg‚ Pretoria and Johannesburg‚ the animal rights organisation said.
They were arrested during “Operation Ringleader’‚ an operation conducted by the Hawks in conjunction with Crime Intelligence‚ the Department of Environmental Affairs‚ the South African Police Service Forensic Science Laboratory and the National Prosecuting Authority.
During the operation‚ 13 illegal firearms‚ three small scales‚ an electrical hacksaw‚ four rhino horns‚ chopped rhino horns‚ R1.1m in cash and eight luxury vehicles were found and confiscated. The value of the seized items‚ including the money‚ is estimated at R6m.
Three of the suspects are out on R500 bail each while another suspect is out on bail of R3‚000. The rest were remanded in police custody until their court appearance on Tuesday.
The suspects face charges of money laundering and racketeering in terms of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act‚ as well as charges for possession of unlicensed firearms and ammunition‚ and corruption
The National Head of the Hawks‚ Lt-Gen Mthandazo Ntlemeza‚ said: "I want to warn poachers that the Hawks will leave no stone unturned in the fight against rhino poaching and we will ensure that poachers are brought to book and convicted. The broom is still sweeping. This operation is continuing until all syndicates are wiped out."