Unit moves in to seize assets of alleged poaching ring member
Suspected rhino poacher Jabulani Ndlovu’s luxury Port Elizabeth home was raided by the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) early yesterday to seize assets believed to be the “ill-gotten gains” of illegal rhino trade. Rhino conservation organisations welcomed the action by the authority, which has linked Ndlovu and his two accomplices to 11 other poaching incidents over the past three years in the Eastern Cape alone.
The NPA’s asset forfeiture unit (AFU), assisted by the police and Hawks, executed a preservation order at Ndlovu’s Lovemore Heights home early yesterday, confiscating a VW Golf GTI believed to have been bought with money he made through rhino poaching and trading in rhino horn.
Ndlovu, 38, and his two co-accused, Sikhumbuzo Ndlovu, 37, and Forget Ndlovu, 40, all Zimbabwean nationals, were arrested on June 17 in Grahamstown, for possession of a rhino horn linked to a poaching incident at Buckland’s Game Reserve, where a white rhino bull named Campbell was killed.
They have also been linked to poaching incidents in the Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Hoedspruit since October 2013.
The three men are in custody, awaiting trial in Grahamstown.
On arrival at the house shortly before 6am, AFU and police officials had to climb over a wall to enter the property inside the exclusive Lovemore Heights Estate.
No one answered their knocks on the door initially, but Ndlovu’s wife, Vuyolwethu, eventually came out through the door of the garage attached to the house.
However, she fled back into the house when she saw the officials and media outside, closing the garage door behind her.
The R2.5-million home is registered in Vuyolwethu’s name and the property was registered with the Cape Town deed office in April.
They obtained a R1-million bond from Nedbank, with the remaining R1.5-million probably paid as a deposit, according to an online Legal City search.
The AFU will seek a preservation order against the house if it is found to have been bought with the proceeds of crime.
Vuyolwethu spoke later to Advocate Warren Myburgh from the AFU and a Hawks official, initially through the closed front door, before eventually letting them in. Her mother, Nomvuyo Khumalo, came outside afterwards to read documents and speak to officials as Vuyolwethu was “too distraught”.
Meanwhile, a similar operation was taking place at a house in NU9, Motherwell, where officials had to seize a luxury Audi as part of the same preservation order. However, the car was not there.
Besides the two cars, the order extended to R18 500 cash and a bank account linked to the case. It is not known how much money is in it.
“The accused and their families now have 14 days to appeal against the preservation order,” Myburgh said.
“If they choose not to appeal, or their appeal fails, these assets will be sold and the proceeds will go into the Criminal Assets Recovery Account to be used for law enforcement.”
Lawyer Sizwe Maci, who is representing the three accused, could not be reached for comment.
Anti-poaching and rhino conservation organisations said the asset seizure would do a lot of good in the ongoing fight against rhino poaching.
“The NPA’s seizure of these assets is consistent with rhino poaching being considered a priority crime and its links to organised crime,” Wilderness Foundation chief executive Andrew Muir said.
“Money accumulated through illegal activities belongs to the state, and we encourage this sort of action by the NPA.”
According to the latest figures from the Department of Environmental Affairs, 702 rhinos had been poached in South Africa up to last month.
The Wildlife and Environmental Society of South Africa (Wessa) said it was good to know that the NPA was taking these steps to fight poaching.
Wessa environmental governance programme manager Morgan Griffiths said it was encouraging to see there was punishment beyond prison.
“It is good to know these ill-gotten gains are not benefiting the poachers’ families or their estates while they are in custody,” he said.
“It takes away their ability to buy their way out of trouble.”
Unite Against Poaching marketing manager Linda Joyce said this should serve as a warning to other poachers, and hopefully discourage them from further criminal activities.