A police raid on a Johannesburg flat in which their suspect was cornered on Tuesday night has led to the discovery of 10 rhino horns and boxes containing millions in cash.
Police arrested a Vietnamese man for being in possession of illegal rhino horns worth R15 million and millions in cash and foreign currency after police received an anonymous tip-off.
The 10 rhino horns, an elephant tusk, cash and jewellery were found when the SAPS raided the flat on Regent Street in Bedford Gardens.
Although the SAPS could not disclose the amount of money found, it probably ran into the millions, said police spokesman, Colonel Vish Naidoo.
They also found a tray full of US dollars and documentation of other men who, Naidoo believes, are involved.
“There must be millions of rands in the flat. Some of it is in (United States) dollars,” he told Sapa.
Police arrived at about 7pm and had to break the door because the suspect refused them entry.
The horns were spread throughout the flat, in cupboards and drawers and police also had to break open a safe after the man refused to open it.
While police continued the search, the man sat silently on the stairs of his two-storey flat, handcuffed behind his back with a large pillow case covering his head.
In the middle of the flat lay the evidence: several rhino horns pointing skywards and the tusk resting against a safe and cardboard boxes full of cash. On the walls hung framed pictures of children and a man and woman on a beach, while a child’s bicycle rested less than a metre from the evidence.
Naidoo said the operation was a result of an anonymous SMS tip-off and was a joint venture between the SAPS, Home Affairs and the Ekurhuleni Metro Police Department.
Although they had not compiled the charges, Naidoo said the suspect would most likely be charged with possession of rhino horns, in contravention with the Endangered Species Act.
He will appear in the Germiston Magistrate’s Court on Thursday, at the latest.
trouble ahead for this fellow
It was also likely he would also be investigated by the SA Revenue Service and the Reserve Bank for being in possession of such a large sum of money.
Naidoo believes the fight against poaching has intensified this year and said a suspected rhino poacher was shot and killed and two others were arrested in the Kruger National Park last week.
He said that since January there have been 10 convictions, totalling 111 years of prison sentences while 57 cases consisting of 166 suspects are in court. Despite this, 210 rhinos have been poached in South Africa this year, almost half of the number for all of 2011.
Pictures: Mujahid Safodien
Source: Daily News