Ten members of a suspected rhino poaching syndicate were on Monday remanded in police custody until their formal bail application. According to police’s Paul Ramaloko, the suspects allegedly illegally obtained 84 rhino horns and killed 22 rhinos valued at nearly R22 million.
“The intelligence-led arrest comes after a year-long investigation by key stakeholders in government and the private sector,” said Ramaloko.
Ramaloko added one of the accused, Hugo Ras, is believed to have managed the syndicate for five years before his arrest on Friday.
“The team arrested the other members of this criminal group simultaneously in Polokwane in Limpopo, Ficksburg in the Free State, Potchefstroom in the North West, and in Montana, Mamelodi and Kameeldrift in Gauteng,” he said.
The suspects, Ras, his wife, Trudie Ras, and his brothers, Anton Ras and Arno Smith, Bonnie Steyn, a pilot from Ficksburg, Willie Oosthuizen, a warrant officer of the Hawks in Pretoria, Joseph Wilkinson, an attorney from Pretoria, Christoffel Scheepers, Mandla Magagula and Willem van Jaarsveld briefly appeared in the Hatfield Magistrate’s Court on several rhino-poaching charges.
Ramaloko said the group contributed to the brutal slaughter and mutilation of 24 rhinos in state-owned and privately owned game reserves.
“Only two of the 24 rhinos that were attacked, survived, but they were dehorned after they were darted. The 34 horns were either stolen or obtained through other devious means,” he said.
The National Head of the Hawks, Lieutenant General Anwa Dramat said they will continue to address these types of syndicates.
“They have no sympathy towards our already endangered species – rhinos. It is clear that they have no regard for the rule of law,” he said.
The syndicate mainly operated in Limpopo, Mpumalanga, the North West, Gauteng, and KwaZulu-Natal. They are expected to appear in court on 29 September.
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