The Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation Mpumalanga has welcomed the sentence by the Middelburg Regional Court on Monday 14 September 2020. The accused, a well-known farmer in Mpumalanga, Deon Cornelius (48) was found guilty and sentenced to pay R 10 000.00 or 3 years imprisonment for dealing illegally in Rhino horns.
Additional compensation fine of R 50 000.00 to be paid to Mpumalanga Parks board. The accused sold 5 of his legal Rhino horns without a permit.
The Provincial Head Major General Zodwa Mokoena applauded the investigating team and the Prosecuting Authorities together with the Judiciary by ensuring that justice prevails.
Major General Mokoena further said: “We believe that this will serve as a lesson to others who commit wildlife related crimes that their days are numbered and their time is coming whereby they will have to face the mighty hand of the law.”
On the 4 January 2018 information was followed by members of the Hawks Mpumalanga about a suspect from Gauteng Province who is buying Rhino horns from Deon Cornelius at Buffelskloof, Middelburg, Mpumalanga without permits to buy nor to transport the Rhino horns.
An intelligence driven operation was conducted by Members of the Hawks assisted by members of the Dog Unit on the 5 January 2018 whereby the team kept observing the situation.
In 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 R 175 000.00 and cash money amount of R 699 129.00. The cash and the Rhino horn were seized and a Chinese male, Yansen Feng and a Chinese female, Lui Li Hong were arrested.
On 12 January 2018 through a follow-up investigation, additional accused Joseph Albertus Du Plessis and Susanna Johanna Du Plessis were arrested in Bloemfontein and later Deon Cornelius was arrested.
He was charged for contravention of Section 23 Act 10 of 1998 and Mpumalanga Nature Conservation Act Dealing in Rhino horns without a 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 the accused was sentenced to R 60 000.00 or six months imprisonment. Further eighteen months imprisonment wholly suspended for five years with the condition that he is not convicted again. To pay R 1 Million to Stop Rhino Poaching as a victim compensation.
Accused No.2: Liu Li Hong, Chinese female (34) as charged for illegal possession of Ivory , Illegal possession of drugs and illegal immigration. The accused was sentenced to pay R 60 000.00 or two years imprisonment.
Accused No. 3: Joseph Albertus Du Plessis and accused No. 5, Susanna Du Plessis in Bloemfontein were charged with illegal dealing in protected species and they were sentenced to pay R 20 000.00 or two years imprisonment and a case against accused No. 5 was finalised on the 14 September 2020.