22 November 2012

South Africa: NPA Seizes Assets of Rhino Poaching Ring Leader

press release

On Friday 16 November 2012, the North Gauteng High Court granted a preservation of property order in terms of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act (POCA) regarding over R3 million in cash; a Range Rover and a Toyota Fortuner that belongs to Joseph Nyalunga, also known as "Big Joe". The total value of the seizure property amounts to approximately R4 million. The application was launched by the Asset Forfeiture Unit.

The SAPS Organised Crime Unit in Mpumalanga and members of the Environmental Crime Investigation Unit of the South African National Parks conducted investigations into large scale, organised rhino poaching in the Kruger National Park and other protected areas in Mpumalanga, as well as smuggling and selling of the rhino horns to foreign nationals of rhinos by a syndicate. Nyalunga, a former police official, was identified as being the ring leader of the syndicate.

On 12 December 2011, the SAPS received information that Nyalunga was on his way from Mpumalanga to Gauteng with the Range Rover and that he was conveying rhino horns. Nyalunga and Conrad Nkuna were arrested by the SAPS near Middelburg, when they were on their way back from Gauteng to Mpumalanga with the Range Rover, in which the police discovered the cash. The police also seized exhibits from the Range Rover that were sent for DNA analysis to the Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) in Pretoria.

The FSL was able to find biological material from the exhibits that provided full DNA profiles of two male white rhinos. The DNA profile of one of the male white rhino that was found in the Range Rover also matched the DNA profile of a male white rhino that was poached in the Kruger National Park during early December 2011 in the Stolsnek area.

At the time of his arrest Nyalunga was unemployed. He had no legitimate income that could explain the huge amount of cash that the police found in his possession. However, he bought the Fortuner in cash for R 290 000, during May 2011 and the Range Rover in cash for R 640 000 the following month. In court papers the NPA submitted that the cash, the Range Rover and the

Fortuner represents the proceeds and/or was used as instrumentalities to facilitate the commission of the following offences:

  • the illegal hunting of rhino in the Kruger National Park
  • the illegal dealing in white rhino horn
  • the illegal possession of white rhino horns
  • racketeering and money laundering offences in contravention of the POCA

Nyalunga is currently in custody pending the finalisation of the criminal cases against him. The matter was subsequently postponed to 22 November 2012 in the Middelburg Regional Court.

Issued by: National Prosecuting Authority

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