Man linked to R20m tusk stash denied bail

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Cape Town - A man hid more than 3 000 chopped-up pieces of elephant tusks, worth more than R20 million, in two storerooms in Table View, according to a charge sheet in the Khayelitsha Regional Court.

Cheng Jie Liang, 34, of Milnerton, appeared in court on Friday to face charges of the illegal possession of 3 232 African elephant ivory items worth nearly R21m.

He allegedly stored the ivory in boxes and plastic covers in two storerooms at a large facility, The Storage Spot, in Potsdam Road in Table View. If Cheng is found guilty, the court can impose a penalty of up to R63m – three times the value of the confiscated ivory – according to the charge sheet.

When police arrested Cheng, he had with him the keys to the two storerooms, and they found the ivory when they opened the storerooms on September 14, 2012.

A second charge involves the illegal possession of 195 items of African elephant ivory worth an estimated R146 348 between September 14 and October 3, 2012.

He also faces a charge of illegal possession of 1 138 dried abalone weighing 116.5kg, which were found hidden in big drying ovens near Coral Road in Bloubergstrand.

The court heard on Friday that police were investigating whether Cheng was part of a syndicate. Cheng was refused bail on November 16, 2012, after the court found that his release would not be in the interests of justice.

Opposing bail, the prosecutor in the case, Aradhana Heericimun, told the court that Cheng was a flight risk, and that the offences were too serious to grant him bail. He has handed his passport to the police.

Cheng pleaded not guilty to all the charges on October 28 last year. He has so far appeared in court 28 times since his first appearance.

The case was postponed until May.

Weekend Argus

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