Karabo Ngoepe, News24. Photo: iStock
Johannesburg - Twelve people believed to be the kingpins of a rhino poaching syndicate operating in Gauteng and North West have been arrested. This after a joint operation by law enforcement agencies.
The 12 were arrested on Tuesday and Wednesday during Operation Ringleader which was conducted in conjunction with Crime Intelligence, the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, the SAPS Forensic Science Laboratory as well as the National Prosecuting Authority in the two provinces.
Hawks spokesperson, Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi said law enforcement officers had been on the trail of the group for two years.
“The high flying group has been [the] subject of an investigation since 2013 and is alleged to have contributed to the illegal poaching of rhinos and illicit dealing of rhino horns in Klerksdorp, Rustenburg, Pretoria and Johannesburg,” he said in a statement.
During the operation, 13 illegal firearms (eight rifles and five pistols), three small scales, one electrical hacksaw, four rhino horns, chopped rhino horns, R1.1m in cash and eight luxury vehicles were found and confiscated.
The value of the seized items, including the money, was estimated at R6m.
The National Head of the Hawks Lieutenant General Mthandazo Ntlemeza praised the team for securing the arrests. He said no stone would be left unturned as they continued to clamp down on rhino poaching.
“I want to warn poachers that the Hawks will leave no stone unturned in the fight against rhino poaching and we will ensure that poachers are brought to book and convicted. The broom is still sweeping. This operation is continuing until all syndicates are wiped out,” he said.
The suspects would face charges of money laundering and racketeering, possession of unlicensed firearms and ammunition as well as corruption.