Pretoria — The South African Revenue Service (SARS) has welcomed the sentencing of international rhino horn smuggling syndicate kingpin and Thai national Chumlong Lemtongthai.
The Kempton Park Regional Court on Friday morning sentenced the 40-year-old to 40 years in prison.
Lemtongthai was arrested in 2010 and together with five others was charged with various counts of fraud, customs and excise violations and transgressions of environmental legislation.
"Today's sentence was the successful outcome of comprehensive investigative work and co-operation between various state law enforcement agencies in the country, including the SAPS Directorate of Priority Crimes Investigation (DPCI), the Hawks, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) and SA National Parks (SANParks)," said SARS.
On Monday, Lemtongthai pleaded guilty to 59 charges.
Over the course of 2012 more than 530 rhinos have been illegally killed in the country.
"The conviction of one individual is not a sufficient deterrent against rhino poaching and the illegal trade in animal products," said SARS.
The revenue service said law enforcement and state agencies had to work together more effectively to combat fraud, corruption and abuse of the system, including the movement of passengers into and out of South Africa as well as the issuing of hunting permits among others.
"If state agencies, including SARS, continue to fail to enforce environmental and other laws effectively, it will make no measurable impact in the fight against rhino poaching. Nevertheless, today's sentencing is a significant achievement for law enforcement agencies who investigated the operations of an international smuggling syndicate and collusion with individuals in the private gaming industry in South Africa."