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Attempted smuggling of 26kg of rhino horn to Abu Dhabi thwarted

Picture: Supplied/SARS

Picture: Supplied/SARS

Published Jun 6, 2022

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Johannesburg - The South African Revenue Service (Sars), in partnership with the South African Police Service (SAPS), have foiled another attempt to smuggle rhino horn out of the country.

The multidisciplinary team had received information about suspicious luggage that was en route to Abu-Dhabi.

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Customs officials responded by dispatching officers to the baggage area where the luggage was scanned, revealing suspicious images.

Two luggage items wrapped in plastic were taken to the Customs search area, where the luggage was rescanned and searched.

Upon further inspection, 17 pieces of rhino horns, weighing 25kg were found. The SAPS arrested the passenger to whom the luggage belonged, and he was held at the International Police Station.

Sars has seen increased attempts to smuggle rhino horns through the OR Tambo International Airport.

During the period July 2020 to April 2022, there have been nine rhino horn detections totalling 137 pieces and weighing 482kg, detected through profiling and information-sharing networks.

Successes by the team include:

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  • April 2022: Twelve pieces of rhino horn, weighing 30.7kg.
  • December 2021: sSx pieces of rhino horn, weighing 4kg declared as ‘Personal Effects.
  • December 2021: Five pieces of rhino horn, weighing 10kg declared as ‘Scanners’.
  • July 2021: Thirty-two pieces of rhino horn, weighing 160kg declared as ‘Live Plants.
  • February 2021: Eighteen pieces of rhino horn, weighing 63kg declared as ‘HP Cartridges Developers.
  • December 2020: Seventeen pieces of rhino horn weighing 72.4kg concealed in a geyser.
  • September 2020: Six pieces, weighing 4.9kg declared as “Coffee Beans”.
  • July 2020: Forty-one pieces, weighing 137kg declared as “Fine Arts”.

Sars Commissioner Edward Kieswetter expressed his appreciation for the focused attention by all the law enforcement agencies to deal with pervasive efforts by criminal elements to smuggle the rhino horns.

He said: “It is clear that the criminals have become more brazen in smuggling, especially the rhino horn. The exemplary efforts by Customs officers working with their counterparts in the South African Police Service to stem these heinous crimes deserve the commendation of all South Africans”.

“Our message must be unambiguous to these criminal syndicates, that we will spare no effort in confronting and dealing with them. Our future generation deserves to see the national heritage of our wild animals”.

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He continued: “As a country, we do not only need to protect these endangered species but ensure that those bent on this way of life are prosecuted, convicted and sentenced to prison for a long time. This is a deliberate and systemic sabotage of our economy”.

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