Poach­ing ‘king­pin’ protests trial de­lay

HUGO RAS: AR­RESTED THREE YEARS AGO, BAIL RE­FUSED

The Citizen (Gauteng) - - NEWS - Ilse de Lange news@cit­i­zen.co.za

Ac­cused wants to ap­peal to SCA for bail as he also fears trial could last 10 years.

The al­leged ring­leader of a rhino poach­ing syn­di­cate, Hugo Ras, has com­plained bit­terly to the High Court in Pre­to­ria that he faced in­def­i­nite im­pris­on­ment be­cause a trial date has not been set more than three years af­ter his ar­rest.

Ras’s le­gal coun­sel said his client wanted to turn to the Supreme Court of Ap­peal now in an ef­fort to se­cure bail as he still did not know when his trial would start or end and feared that the ac­tual trial might run for up to 10 years.

Ras has re­peat­edly been re­fused bail. Of the 10 ac­cused, only he and fel­low ac­cused Arno Smit and Wil­lie van Jaarsveld are still in cus­tody.

Act­ing Judge David Mhango pro­vi­sion­ally post­poned the trial of Ras, a for­mer sa­fari com­pany owner, and his co-ac­cused to March 28 next year at the state’s re­quest.

Sev­eral of the other ac­cused’s ad­vo­cates also put on record their ob­jec­tion to yet another long de­lay. But pros­e­cu­tor Joanie Spies told the court the state and de­fence had agreed the trial would not pro­ceed be­fore judg­ment in a con­sti­tu­tional chal­lenge to reg­u­la­tions un­der­pin­ning the crim­i­nal charges filed by two of the ac­cused, Joseph Wilkin­son (an at­tor­ney) and Bon­nie Steyn (a pilot).

The ap­pli­ca­tion would ini­tially have been heard early this year, but was de­layed when the department of en­vi­ron­men­tal af­fairs gave no­tice that it wanted to in­ter­vene in the ap­pli­ca­tion.

The court was told that not all the pa­pers and heads of ar­gu­ment had been filed in the civil ap­pli­ca­tion, for which a date still has to be de­ter­mined.

The bail con­di­tions of two of the ac­cused were re­laxed and one of them, for­mer Hawks war­rant of­fi­cer Wil­lie Oosthuizen, will now be able to travel over­seas un­der strict con­di­tions. His coun­sel told

Ras has re­peat­edly been re­fused bail. Of the 10 ac­cused, only he and fel­low ac­cused Arno Smit and Wil­lie van Jaarsveld are still in cus­tody.

the court he was be­ing prej­u­diced as his life and any ven­tures he wanted to en­gage in were on hold be­cause of the crim­i­nal charges hang­ing over his head.

Ras and his co-ac­cused were ar­rested in Septem­ber 2014 in a coun­try­wide op­er­a­tion by the Hawks. The charges they face in­volve rhino poach­ing and the al­leged theft and il­le­gal pos­ses­sion, trans­port and sale of rhino horn. The ac­cused also face charges of rack­e­teer­ing and money laun­der­ing.

Ras’s co-ac­cused in­clude his wife Trudie, brother An­ton, brother-in-law Abra­ham Smit and al­leged main hunter Mandla Ma­gag­ula. –

Pic­ture: Reuters

Smoke bil­lows from Myan­mar’s side of the border as a Ro­hingya refugee is car­ried ashore af­ter cross­ing the Bangladesh-Myan­mar border by boat into Bangladesh yes­ter­day.

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