Twelve suspects, including three police officers arrested in a joint Hawks operation for alleged rhino poaching, will appear in court this morning.
The suspects were arrested on Tuesday and Wednesday in a multi-disciplinary and intelligence-led operation in two provinces.
‘Operation Ringleader’ was conducted in conjunction with Crime Intelligence, the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, South African Police Service Forensic Science Laboratory and the National Prosecuting Authority.
The suspects were arrested in Gauteng and the North West and are expected to appear in the Rooderpoort Magistrate’s Court on charges of money laundering and racketeering as contained in the Proceeds of Crime Act, possession of unlicensed firearms and ammunition as well as corruption, the Hawks said on Wednesday.
Hawks spokesperson Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi said the high flying group has been the subject of an investigation since 2013.
It is alleged to have contributed to the illegal poaching of rhinos and illicit dealing of rhino horns in Klerksdorp, Rustenburg, Pretoria and Johannesburg.
During the operation, 13 illegal firearms, three small scales, one electrical hacksaw, four rhino horns, chopped rhino horns, R1.1 million in cash and eight luxury vehicles were found and confiscated.
The seized items, including the money, is estimated at R6 million.
The National Head of the Hawks, Lieutenant General Mthandazo Ntlemeza, has commended the multi-disciplinary team for its sterling work in securing the arrest of the alleged rhino poaching syndicate ringleaders.
“We are pleased with the arrest and resultant confiscations. This successful operation yet again illustrates the good working relationship we have with our stakeholders.”
Ntlemeza warned poachers that the Hawks will leave no stone unturned in the fight against rhino poaching.
“We will ensure that poachers are brought to book and convicted. The broom is still sweeping. This operation is continuing until all syndicates are wiped out,” he said.