Three years for placing rhino horn ad
A Durban fruit and vegetable vendor's botched attempt to sell a rhino horn has resulted in a three-year jail term.
Rajen Moodley yesterday pleaded guilty to dealing in rhino horn in the Durban Regional Court.
He escaped the prescribed five-year sentence and, under Correctional Services legislation, might serve only six months of his three-year sentence.
In his plea explanation, Moodley claimed that his co-accused, Sithembiso Luthuli and Samkelo Sibiya, approached him on March16 with the offer of earning 10% from the sale of a rhino horn.
According to Moodley, the two men said they needed his help to find a buyer willing to pay R1.5-million for the 6.5kg horn.
Moodley advertised the horn in the local fruit and vegetable market. A day later an interested buyer contacted him.
Moodley claimed that, together with his co-accused, he met the prospective buyer at the Elangeni Hotel.
They then drove to another location to show the man the horn.
"Suddenly we were surrounded by police," he said.
Moodley then learned that his "buyer" was a policeman.
Defence advocate Jay Naidoo yesterday told the court that Moodley was not involved in planning the sale of the horn and that his involvement had lasted no more than two days.
"It is clear that he was lured by the proverbial quick buck. He first became familiar with what a rhino horn looks like moments [before his arrest]. Though this case has attracted media and public interest, the court must take his minor role into account.
"He did not harvest the horn or kill the animal," he argued.
Prosecutor Yuri Gangai said rhino poaching was a serious issue.
"I am not suggesting that the accused should be punished for every person who is dealing in rhino horn but the court must send out a message that this is just not on," he said.
Nearly 300 rhino have been killed by poachers this year.
Magistrate Fariedha Mohamed took into account Moodley's "amateurish" act of advertising a rhino horn at a market.
But she said the seriousness of the offence demanded a prison sentence.
"It is a huge problem as the white rhino is on the brink of extinction and their survival is jeopardised by acts like this.
"The court has to send out a message to prevent the trade in rhino horn from becoming more lucrative," Mohamed said.
Luthuli and Sibiya will appear in court next week.