MIDDELBURG – A well-known farmer in the province, Deon Cornelius was found guilty and sentenced to pay R10 000.00 or three years imprisonment at the Middelburg Regional Court.
An additional compensation fine of R50 000.00 to be paid to Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency board. According to the Mpumalanga Hawks, the accused sold five of his legal rhino horns without a permit.
On January 4, 2018, the Hawks responded to a tip-off about a suspect from Gauteng who bought rhino horns from Cornelius at Buffelskloof in Middelburg without a permit to buy nor to transport the rhino horns.
“On the early hours of that morning the suspect arrived driving a white Lexus vehicle and was stopped and searched. During the search, a rhino horn of a white rhino was found attached to the chassis of the vehicle with cable ties valued to R175 000.00 and cash amount of R699 129.00 and they were seized while Chinese male and female Yansen Feng and Lui Li Hong were arrested,” said the Mpumalanga Hawks.
On January 12, 2018, a follow-up investigation led to accused Joseph Albertus Du Plessis and Susanna Johanna Du Plessis who were arrested in Bloemfontein and later Cornelius was also arrested. He was charged for contravention of Section 23 Act 10 of 1998 and Mpumalanga Nature Conservation Act Dealing in rhino horns without permit.
The case against the other four accused was finalised in 2018 and they were sentenced as follows:
Accused No.1 Yansen Feng Chinese male was charged for illegal dealing in specially protected species and accused sentence to R60 000.00 or six months imprisonment. A further eighteen months imprisonment wholly suspended for five years with the condition that he is not convicted again. He was also ordered to pay R1millon to Stop Rhino Poaching as a victim compensation.
Accused No.2 Liu Li Hong w Chinese female as charged for illegal possession of Ivory, illegal possession of drugs and illegal immigration. The accused was sentenced to pay R60 000.00 or two years imprisonment .
Accused No. 3 Joseph Albertus Du Plessis and accused No.5 Sasanna Du Plessis in Bloemfontein were charged with illegal dealing in protected species and they were sentenced to pay R20 000.00 or two years imprisonment and a case against accused No. 5 was finalised on the 14 September 2020.