Following months of investigating an alleged rhino horn syndicate, the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (better known as the Hawks) on Thursday arrested three suspects aged between 45 and 53 believed to be the masterminds.
Two rhino horns, two vehicles as well as an amount of over R70,000 were seized during the operation which targeted three premises, the Hawks said in a statement.
“The operation comes in the wake of a year-long investigation by the Mpumalanga Hawks, who successfully infiltrated this notorious syndicate that traffics rhino horns within South Africa and abroad, particularly South East Asian countries.
“Several covert transactions were conducted with the syndicate during the investigation which exposed their entrenched links to the illicit rhino horn trafficking in the Gauteng Province. The syndicate worked meticulously and tried to counter all law enforcement actions to protect their dealings, which made it an extremely difficult investigation,” the statement read.
The crime scene investigations are still continuing to unveil the syndicate’s operations and additional arrests have not been ruled out.
The suspects are expected to appear in the Kempton Park Magistrate’s Court on Friday.
This integrated investigation, spearheaded by the Hawks, included SANParks, the Department of Environmental Affairs, Financial Intelligence Centre, Asset Forfeiture Unit, Crime Intelligence, Forensic Science Laboratory, Special Task Force, Department of Home Affairs, National Prosecution Authority and the Mpumalanga Parks Board.