Trio arrested after trying to sell elephant tusks to undercover cops
Polokwane – Three men will appear in a Polokwane court on Monday after they were arrested as they attempted to sell elephant tusks to undercover law enforcement officers this past week, the South African Police Service (SAPS) in Limpopo said on Sunday.
“Members of the endangered species unit in Limpopo, K9, crime intelligence, Ledet [Limpopo department of economic development, environment and tourism], and Kruger National Park's crime investigation unit (ECI) arrested three suspects aged between 31 and 36 for possession of elephant tusks on Friday 22 January 2021, around 10:30 [am] at Savannah Mall in Polokwane,” Limpopo SAPS spokesperson Colonel Moatshe Ngoepe said.
“It is alleged that the police were on a joint undercover operation at Polokwane policing area when they arrested three suspects who wanted to sell them elephant tusks. The trio, driving in grey BMW, were found in possession of four pieces of elephant tusks with an estimated value of R168,000. The suspects were immediately arrested,” Ngoepe said.
Limpopo police commissioner Lt-Gen Nneke Ledwaba welcomed the arrests and commended the officers “for working tirelessly to fight against criminal activities in this province”.
The three men were scheduled to appear in the Polokwane Magistrates’ Court on Monday on charges related to illegal possession of elephant tusks.
Meanwhile, 36-year-old Kelvin Chigwede, who is in police custody, will return to the Regional Court in Kempton Park in Ekurhuleni in Gauteng on Tuesday on a charge of illegally dealing in rhino horns.
Gauteng Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (Hawks) spokesperson Captain Ndivhuwo Mulamu said the rhino horns were “disguised as chicken feed” and destined for Malaysia.
“In December last year, the Hawks’ serious organised crime [unit] in Germiston, Benoni SAPS, and the South African National Parks [SANParks] followed up on intelligence regarding a consignment declared as chicken food mixture, packaged in a blue geyser at a warehouse in Kempton Park, containing rhino horns weighing about 72.4 kg,” said Mulamu.
“It is alleged that the consignment was intercepted by authorities after being dropped off at a warehouse on the same day. During an investigation, it was discovered that it was destined for Malaysia.”
Earlier this month, Mulamu said further investigations led authorities to a residence in Benoni where a search warrant was executed.
“Upon searching the premises, authorities found about R500,000 in cash and it was seized for investigation purposes, since it is suspected to be the proceeds of illegal dealings,.
“Chigwede was arrested immediately and charged for illegal dealing in rhino horns and contravention of the National Environmental Biodiversity Act (Nemba). The case was postponed to 26 January 2021 for a formal bail application,” Mulamu said.
– African News Agency (ANA), editing by Jacques Keet