The Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation Mpumalanga has welcomed the sentencing by the Middelburg Regional Court on Monday, 14 September 2020 of the accused, a well-known farmer Deon Cornelius (48) was found guilty and sentenced to pay R10 000-00 or 3 years imprisonment. Additional compensation fine of R50 000-00 to be paid to Mpumalanga Parks board. Accused sold five of his legal rhino horns without a permit.
On the 4 January 2018, information was followed by members of the Hawks Mpumalanga about a suspect from Gauteng Province who is buying rhino horns from Deon Cornelius at Buffelskloof in Middelburg without permit to buy nor to transport the rhino horns.
An intelligence driven operation was conducted by members of the Hawks assisted by members of K9 on the 5 January 2018, whereby the team kept observation. In the early hours of that morning the suspect arrived driving a white Lexus and was stopped and searched. During the search, a horn of a white rhino valued to R175 000.00 was found attached to the chassis of the vehicle with cable ties and cash amounting to R699 129-00. The exhibits were seized and two Chinese nationals, a male Yansen Feng and a female Lui Li Hong were arrested.
On 12 January 2018, through follow-up investigation, additional accused Joseph Albertus Du Plessis and Susanna Johanna Du Plessis were arrested in Bloemfontein. Deon Cornelius was arrested later and charged with contravention of Section 23 Act 10 of 1998 and Mpumalanga Nature Conservation Act Dealing in rhino horns without permit.
The case against the other four accused was finalized in 2018 and they were sentenced as follows:
Accused No.1 Yansen Feng was charged with illegal dealing in specially protected species and sentenced to R60 000-00 fine or six months imprisonment as well as a further eighteen months imprisonment wholly suspended for five years with the condition that he is not convicted of the same crime again. Feng also had to pay R1 million to the Stop Rhino Poaching as a victim compensation.
Accused No.2 Liu Li Hong (34) was charged with illegal possession of Ivory, Illegal possession of drugs and illegal immigration. Hong was sentenced to pay R60 000-00 or two years imprisonment.
Accused No.3 Joseph Albertus Du Plessis and accused No.4 Sasanna Du Plessis were charged with illegal dealing in protected species and they were sentenced to pay R20 000-00 or two years imprisonment by the Bloemfontein court.
The Provincial Head of the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation, Major General Zodwa Mokoena applauded the investigating team and the Prosecuting Authorities together with the Judiciary by ensuring that justice prevails. Major General Mokoena further said that “We believe that this will serve as a lesson to others who commit wildlife related crimes that their days are numbered and their time is coming whereby they will have to face the mighty hand of the law”.
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