9 May 2017

South Africa: Suspected Rhino Poaching Syndicate Luxury Car Driver in Court

An alleged member of the so-called "Mercedes Benz" rhino poaching syndicate made a brief appearance in the Ganyesa Magistrate's Court on Tuesday as police searched for another suspect who managed to evade arrest.

Godfrey Fokesi Mabunda, 36, appeared in court after he was arrested in Morokweng Village near the North West/Botswana border late on Saturday night after a rhino was found shot and de-horned at a private reserve.

A second alleged member of the gang, an undocumented man from Mozambique, was shot in the lower body after the police came under heavy gun fire, and did not appear in court.

According to police spokesperson Charlize van der Linden, the wounded man is under police guard at a nearby hospital where he is recovering.

"The case will resume on May 17, by which time he will also have been charged," she said.

Police have recovered two rhino horns, cellphones, a bag of clothing, and an illegal allegedly stolen 9mm revolver without a serial number.

Acting on information, police linked Mabunda to a late model charcoal Mercedes Benz with Gauteng registration plates, and on Saturday night arrested him and seized the vehicle.

Both Mabunda's passport and a Mozambican driver's license belonging to a known, wanted rhino poacher, were discovered in the car and seized.

Mabunda is alleged to have been the driver of the luxury car which dropped off two poachers at a private Mokopong reserve on Saturday.

"Unfortunately, a third poacher escaped and managed to evade arrest, and covered more than 90km by nightfall on Sunday evening. Our members are still out looking for tracks and clues," Van der Linden said.

"Police forensic DNA specialists examined the car and clothing for further evidence today [Tuesday]. We hope to make a third arrest soon."

Source: News24

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