10 May 2012
South African authorities have seized properties and assets worth R55-million believed to be the proceeds of rhino poaching involving a game farmer, two veterinary surgeons and nine other suspects from Limpopo province.
The assets – including helicopters, luxury vehicles, houses, townhouses and farms – were attached on Wednesday in a joint operation by the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), elite investigative unit the Hawks and South African Police Service (SAPS).
Game farmer Dawie Groenewald, veterinary surgeons Karel Toet and Manie du Plessis and nine others were arrested in late 2010 on 1 872 charges related to rhino poaching, making it one of the highest-profile case in South Africa, according to the NPA.
The charges include assault, fraud, corruption, malicious damage to property, illegal possession of firearms and ammunition, contravention of the National Environmental Biodiversity Act and racketeering.
“This team has seized assets in the region of R55-million, believed to have been acquired through criminal activities, particularly rhino poaching from Dawie Groenewald, and two veterinary surgeons, Drs Karel Toet and Manie du Plessis,” national police spokesperson Colonel Vish Naidoo said on Wednesday.
“We are still attaching all 11 suspects’ assets, and we will make sure that we attach more of them until that [court] case resumes in October this year.”
Naidoo said that while the matter was still before the court, the provisions of the Proceeds of Crime Act allowed the Asset Forfeiture Unit to seize and preserve the assets of an accused until the case was finalised.
“On conviction of an accused, the seizure is realised and these proceeds are then used to continue with the combating of crime,” said Naidoo.
The seizures, which are classified under Uncapped Asset Forfeiture, took place in Musina and Polokwane on Wednesday.
“The operation is expected to last until the end of the day today,” Naidoo said, adding that the assets would be placed under curatorship.
With regard to the court case, Naidoo said the matter had been postponed for the defence counsel to file a request for further details.