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Monday, October 18, 2010

Goddamit: South African Rhino Horn Syndicate Case Involving Safari Operators Thrown Out

Gert Saaiman and Frans van Deventer leave the court (photo credit: Chris Collingridge)

From Bush Warriors

The rhino horn syndicate case involving George Fletcher, Gert Saaiman, and Frans Deventer has been thrown out by Judge Nomonde Mngqibisa of the North Gauteng High Court.

The suspects were believed to be responsible for slaughtering at least 19 rhinos, including three calves, in order to profit from the illegal rhino horn trade. Multiple charges had been brought against the accused, including racketeering, money laundering, various counts of theft, malicious damage to property and contraventions of the various provincial Conservation Acts and the Aviation Act.

Accused were ‘losing their social standing’ because of trial delays

After the prosecution’s star witness, Gideon van Deventer, refused to testify because of intimidation claims, a postponement was sought. However, the court ruled that to delay the case any further would be unfair to the accused. The judge pointed out that the State’s case was based on the testimony of a convicted criminal.
She said while she understands he is making it hard for the state to prepare for trial, the three accused – George Fletcher, Gerhardus Saaiman, Frans van Deventer – as well as their families, are living under the stigma of the charges which were levelled four years ago.

The judge said they are losing their social standing because of delays caused by a man in prison.
The defense team included attorney Terry Price, who was also responsible for getting Paris Hilton’s marijuana charges dropped during her World Cup visit.

Illegal rhino horn business ‘booming’
Rhino poaching has returned to South Africa with a vengeance and the illegal rhino horn business is booming. The killing has reached a 16-year high, with more than 600 rhinos slaughtered since 2005. Well-funded rhino horn syndicates maintain an extensive network of accomplices, and have managed to recruit game farmers, professional hunters, and even veterinarians into the gruesome business. Illegal rhino horn is still in high demand for traditional medicines in China and Vietnam, despite the fact that rhino horn has been extensively analyzed and found to be of no medicinal value. Most rhino horn leaving southern Africa is destined for China and Vietnam, according to the latest research by TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network.

About the author: Rhishja Larson is the founder and Program Director of Saving Rhinos LLC, a public awareness program focusing on the illegal trade in rhino horn. She shares news, opinion, and commentary on her blog Rhino Conservation: Rhino Horn is Not Medicine. She has also been a guest blogger on National Geographic’s NatGeo News Watch, Rhino horn: All myth, no medicine.

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