Friday, 27 January 2017

SOUTH AFRICA: Boere rhino Mafia Arrested After Throwing A Rhino Horn Out Of Car Window As Police Pursued Them

Two convicted rhino poachers linked to the “Boere rhino Mafia” have been arrested again, this time after allegedly tossing a rhino horn from the window of their speeding bakkie while being pursued by police.

The two brothers, Deon and Nicolaas van Deventer, now thought to be living in the Tolwe area in Limpopo, were nabbed on Friday and appeared briefly in the Louis Trichardt Magistrate’s Court on Monday, when the case was postponed for further investigation for another week.

The brothers first made the headlines in 10 years ago when they were caught poaching rhinos in the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park.

Posing as tourists, the pair checked into Hilltop camp using false names and fake number plates on their bakkies on August 22, 2006.

Cool as cucumbers, they set off the next morning to a remote section of the reserve, where Deon shot two white rhinos, removed the horns and attempted to conceal the carcasses with branches.

But both were arrested as they drove out the Cengeni Gate, near Ulundi, as they were already under surveillance by police and Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife officers after Deon was arrested a few months earlier for possession of rhino horns in the Bela Bela area.

Following their arrest, the brothers revealed several details about their alleged co-conspirators in the “Boere rhino Mafia”, a network that included several Afrikaans-speakers who used hunting bows and arrows or silenced rifles to kill rhinos in the Kruger National Park and private reserves.

A bundle of affidavits presented to the Pretoria High Court in 2010 described details of the group’s alleged role in killing at least 22 rhinos between 2005 and 2006.

Under a plea bargain agreement, Deon was sentenced to an effective eight years in jail and Nicolaas to two-and-a-half years.

They later reneged on promises to testify against their alleged accomplices after Deon claimed to have received threats against his family.

Now the brothers have been arrested again.

Limpopo police spokesperson Motlafela Mojapelo confirmed that Deon, 48, and Nicolaas, 51 – along with Zimbabwean national Onward Muchangowa, 34 – were arrested on Friday in connection with the alleged illegal possession of a rhino horn and related charges.

The men have not pleaded and the case has been postponed to January 16.

The Bosveld Review reported that the three suspects were arrested on Friday afternoon on the road between Vivo and Louis Trichardt.

Realising they were being followed by police, they allegedly threw a wrapped object from the vehicle and sped off. One of the police vehicles stopped and retrieved a rhino horn wrapped in plastic.

The Bosveld Review reported that the horn might be connected to a recent poaching in the Witpoort area, where a rhino and her calf were shot and dehorned.

According to earlier court documents, the Van Deventers used hunting bows while poaching in the Kruger National Park in 2005. Several adults and calves were shot indiscriminately and left to die.

If the animals did not drop immediately, the killers simply drove on until they were able to shoot and drop their prey, to avoid the inconvenience of pursuing wounded animals.