The South African Police service (SAPS) arrested three men believed to be the masterminds of arhino horn trafficking operation in Gauteng on 15 August.
SAPS raided a property in Johannesburg seizing two rhino horns, R70,000 in cash and two vehicles allegedly used in the trafficking operation.
Rhino horn sting the product of a year-long Hawks investigation
The operation comes in the wake of a year-long investigation by the Mpumalanga Hawks members. The Hawks infiltrated this notorious syndicate that traffics rhino horns within South Africa and abroad, particularly, the South East Asian countries.
“The Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation deployed an integrated team of experts to execute search warrants in Johannesburg, Gauteng Province, on Thursday, 15 August 2019, following months of investigating an alleged rhino horn syndicate,” read a statement from the SAPS.
“Three suspects aged between 45 and 53 believed to be the masterminds behind the rhino horn syndicate were arrested. Two rhino horns with unconfirmed value and two vehicles as well as an amount of over R70 000 were seized during the operation which targeted three premises.”
The investigation involved an integrated effort from a dozen different government departments, including the Parks board.
“This integrated investigation spearheaded by the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation, Middelburg based members, SANParks, the Department of Environmental Affairs, Financial Intelligence Centre, Asset Forfeiture, Crime Intelligence, Forensic Science Laboratory, Special Task Force, Department of Home Affairs, National Prosecution Authority and Mpumalanga Parks Board demonstrates government’s ability to work together in fighting wildlife trafficking in South Africa and beyond.
“Several covert transactions were conducted with the syndicate during the investigation which exposed their entrenched links to the illicit rhino horn trafficking in the Gauteng Province.
“The syndicate worked meticulously and tried to counter all law enforcement actions to protect their dealings, which made it an extremely difficult investigation,” the release issued by the office of Captain Dineo Sekgotodi read.
Further arrests could be on the cards
Crime scene investigations continue to unveil the syndicate’s operations and additional arrests have not been ruled out.
All three suspects are expected to appear in the Kempton Park Magistrate’s Court on Friday the 16 August 2019.
The Provincial Head of the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation Mpumalanga, Major General Mokoena applauded the sterling work of her members. Mokoena said that the members in her command work hard to fight crime within the province and beyond the provincial boundaries.
The National Head of the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation, Lt General Lebeya commended the integrated work that lead to the dismantling of this Wildlife Trafficking syndicate.