Alleged rhino horn smuggler arrested at OR Tambo airport

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa has welcomed the arrest of an alleged rhino horn smuggler at OR Tambo International Airport in Ekurhuleni.

Minister Molewa on Friday congratulated members of the Environmental Management Inspectorate (“Green Scorpions”) for their assistance in the arrest of the 30-year-old Zimbabwean woman at the airport on Thursday. She was found in possession of two rhino horns.

“The successes we are recording in terms of the Integrated Strategic Management approach can be attributed to the excellent collaboration between the Green Scorpions, SARS [South African Revenue Service], SAPS [South African Police Service] and other government agencies as they strive to combat the illegal import and export of wildlife products,” said Minister Molewa.

The woman was arrested after suspicious items were noticed by private security personnel during the scanning of her check-in luggage. This was reported to customs officials, who in turn called the Green Scorpions to assist with identification of the items. 

The horns were found hidden amongst electronic items in a suitcase.

The confiscated rhino horns will be subjected to genetic profiling by the Forensic Science Laboratory of the SAPS to determine the origin of the rhinoceros horn or possible linkages with other investigations.

The woman’s arrest comes less than two weeks after the arrest of a 24-year-old Chinese woman at OR Tambo International, who was in transit from Zambia to Hong Kong.  The woman was arrested transporting 11 rhino horn.

Trade of endangered species

In terms of the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act, 2004 (Act No. 10 of 2004) (NEMBA) as well as the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), a permit is required to possess or transport rhino horn. 

Non-compliance with the NEMBA permit requirement is a criminal offence in which a person convicted of the crime is liable to a fine not exceeding R10 million, or a fine equal to three times the commercial value of the rhinoceros horn in respect of which the offence was committed (whichever is the greater) or imprisonment for a period not exceeding 10 years, or both a fine and imprisonment. -

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