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MPUMALANGA – Five members of an alleged syndicate that deal in rhino horns are out on bail following their arrest by the Mpumalnga Hawks.
The operation which got under way on 04 January 2018 and concluded in 15 January this year, led to the arrest of two Chinese nationals, a couple and a game farmer.
It is alleged that Yansen Fenc (no Identification number) and Liu Li Hong (32) allegedly bought a rhino horn from a game farmer Deon Cornelius (46) at Buffelskloof. Hawks members received information of a transaction that was going to take place between the two suspects and the farmer.
The suspects were seen driving out of the farm and the Hawks members with the assistance of Middleburg K9 unit stopped them. Upon the search of the suspects’ vehicle, members managed to retrieve the rhino horn allegedly hidden in the vehicle chassis tied with cable ties. Almost R24 000 in cash was also seized including drugs.
Follow-up investigation led to the arrest of further suspects who are believed to be part of the syndicate. Jozeph Albertus Du Plessis (71) and his wife Susanna Johanna Du Plessis (55) were arrested in Bainsvlei Bloemfontein and the game famer, Cornelius, was also added to the list of suspects. It transpired that the almost five rhino horns were sold in the illegal trading between the five suspects.
Cornelius is alleged to have been leading in the illegal transaction and did not have a permit to sell rhino horns. He was only issued with a permit to possess the horns. During his arrest almost R675 000 was found in his possession and it has been confiscated and has been forfeited to the state pending the legal process. An elephant tusk was also seized in Liu Li Hong house in Mabopane Pretoria the legality thereof has been added to the suspects list of charges.
Yansen Fenc was released on R50 000.00 bail and placed in house arrest. The couple and Cornelius were released on R1000.00 bail each. Liu Li Hong has been remanded in custody as she could not produce any travel documents and proof that she is legally in the country.
The suspects are expected to appear on 25 January 2018 on charges illegal dealing in rhino horns pending further investigations.