‘Rhino syn­di­cate’ walks


The Citizen (KZN) - - FRONT PAGE - – ils­[email protected]­i­zen.co.za

Judge Pierre Ra­bie yesterday post­poned the trial of Ras, a pro­fes­sional hunter from Potchef­stroom in the North West, his wife Trudie, brother An­ton, brother-in-law Arno Smith, for­mer Hawks of­fi­cer Wil­lie Oosthuizen, for­mer Pre­to­ria at­tor­ney Joseph Wilkinson, game cap­ture pilot Bon­nie Steyn, Wil­lie van Jaarsveld, and Matthys Scheep­ers to end Novem­ber next year.

This was pend­ing the out­come of Wilkinson and Steyn’s con­sti­tu­tional chal­lenge to the en­vi­ron­men­tal reg­u­la­tions un­der­pin­ning charges re­lat­ing to the il­le­gal possession, sale and trans­port of rhino horn.

The ap­pli­ca­tion, which was pre­vi­ously de­layed af­ter the depart­ment of en­vi­ron­men­tal af­fairs gave no­tice that it wanted to in­ter­vene in the ap­pli­ca­tion, will be heard in the High Court in Pre­to­ria in Fe­bru­ary next year.

The group were ar­rested by the Hawks in 2014. They face a range of crim­i­nal charges cen­ter­ing around rhino poach­ing and the al­leged theft and il­le­gal possession, trans­port and sale of rhino horn. They also face charges of rack­e­teer­ing and money laun­der­ing.

Judge Ra­bie granted an or­der re­lax­ing the bail con­di­tions of four of the ac­cused and al­low­ing Scheep­ers to fly within the bor­ders of South Africa.

Wilkinson’s bail was on a pre­vi­ous oc­ca­sion re­duced from R100 000 to R25 000 and the court granted an or­der al­low­ing him to ap­ply for the re­newal of his he­li­copter pilot’s li­cense and to fly while ap­ply­ing for his li­cense.

Prose­cu­tor Joanie Spies told the court that Wilkinson had made rep­re­sen­ta­tions about the charges to the Na­tional Pros­e­cut­ing Au­thor­ity in March, which had been for­warded to the na­tional di­rec­tor of pub­lic pros­e­cu­tions (NDPP) but to which no re­ply was ever re­ceived, with the NDPP of­fice re­peat­edly claim­ing they had never re­ceived the ap­pli­ca­tion.

Judge Ra­bie said this was “ab­so­lute non­sense” and sug­gested that Spies or an­other mem­ber of the pros­e­cut­ing team must get into their cars, drive to the NDPP of­fice and per­son­ally hand over the ap­pli­ca­tion.

Spies, who said she found the sit­u­a­tion “em­bar­rass­ing”, as­sured the judge this would be done.

The bail of all of the ac­cused ex­cept Ma­gag­ula was ex­tended, in­clud­ing that of Ras, who was re­peat­edly re­fused bail but fi­nally re­leased on R25 000 bail in Fe­bru­ary, fol­low­ing a suc­cess­ful ap­peal to the Supreme Court of Ap­peal.

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