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Mbombela - The State on Tuesday accused one of two men implicated in the theft of rhino horn from the Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency, of lying about being tortured into a confession.

Ali Gideon Mtshali, 51, pleaded not guilty to housebreaking and theft during his bail application in the Nelspruit Magistrate's Court on Tuesday, a Sapa correspondent reported.

He was arrested on June 6 and charged along with his co-accused Sizwe Leonard Malatjie, who was arrested on June 7.

“While I told them I don't know anything about rhino horns, they beat me. One officer went to a certain room, came back with handcuffs, a plastic bag and covered my face. After that I was beaten while covered in the bag.

“I asked them what they wanted and promised to agree. They took off the bag and gave me a written statement and forced me to sign it,” Mtshali said.

Prosecutor Ansie Venter told the court Mtshali was lying.

Venter said Mtshali transported the horns, which were estimated to be worth R160 million, to Mozambique.

“We understand you went to Mozambique on April 20, but after accused two called you to return urgently you came back as stated in your passport and transported the horns with a certain man, while accused number two walked,” said Venter.

Venter said footage from the Nkomazi toll plaza and Lebombo border would provide evidence of the trips.

Mtshali replied: “I don't know that. Maybe the State can give me pictures or videos of me driving back to Mozambique with rhino horns. I don't know anything.”

The rhino horns were stolen from a parks agency strongroom on the night of April 20. The horns had been removed from live rhinos to protect them from poachers.