5 December 2012

South Africa: Rhinos - DA Welcomes Commitment to Further Action Against Lemgthongthai and Co-Accused

press release

Minister of Justice, Jeff Radebe, has in reply to a parliamentary question stated that the NPA has instructed the relevant Investigation Officer to obtain warrants of arrests for Thai national, Chumlong Lemthongthai, and South African national, Marnus Steyl.

This was in response to a DA parliamentary question to the Minister asking why charges against the co-accused of Lemthongthai were recently dropped and whether the NPA intended reinstating any of the charges against the co-accused.

The DA had at the time of the conclusion of the court case involving Lemthongthai in early November expressed its dismay that the charges against the co-accused had been dropped. The DA welcomes the news that Chumlong Lemthongthai and Marnus Steyl will face new charges.

The Minister's reply is silent on the other co-accused, other than Punpitak who has apparently skipped the country illegally. Every effort must be made to apprehend Punpitak again.

There was good reason to celebrate the 40-year jail sentence handed down by the Kempton Park magistrate to Chumlong Lemthongthai, for (among other things) the illegal trade in rhino horn and customs violations.

Not only was the sentence deserved considering the assault on South Africa's rhino population by ruthless poachers and illegal traders, but it sent a strong signal to other individuals involved in this illicit business. Lemthongthai pled guilty to 59 charges.

But as the DA stated at the time, the traffic of ill-gotten rhino horn out of South Africa has many players, and thus it was deeply problematic that only charges against Lemthongthai were pursued.

It is now evident that the matter is thankfully not over. The Justice Minister notes in his reply that existing case dockets have not yet been fully investigated, so the possibility of many new charges exists.

Gareth Morgan, Shadow Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs

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