South Africa 22.9.2014 11:08 am

Alleged rhino poaching syndicate members appear in court

FILE PICTURE: Rhino horn. Picture: supplied

FILE PICTURE: Rhino horn. Picture: supplied

Rhino activists were seated behind the ten accused belonging to one of South Africa’s biggest alleged rhino poaching syndicates as they made their first appearance Hatfield Court on World Rhino Day.

Alleged kingpin Hugo Ras and wife Trudie Ras did not ask for bail and did not have legal representatives in court.

Some of the accused individuals’ legal representatives asked for a short adjournment so they  could go through the charge sheets.

Two of accused asked to speak to the state. One has said there are problems at the institution where he has been incarcerated and the other has claimed he has health problems.

The court heard that one of the accused would be applying for bail today.

Hugo Ras and nine other members appeared in court after they were arrested in various parts of the country in a simultaneous arrest operation led by the Hawks.

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Picture: Alex Mitchley

Ras was arrested in front of the Pretoria North Magistrate’s Court on Friday morning.

The other suspects were arrested simultaneously in Polokwane in Limpopo, Ficksburg in the Free State, Potchefstroom in the North West and in Montan and, Mamelodi and Kameeldrift in Gauteng.

Among the accused who appeared in court was Ras’ alleged right-hand-man, Warrant Officer Willie Oosthuizen, who worked  for the Organised Crime Unit in Pretoria, Ras’s wife Trudie, his  brother Anton Ras and alleged poacher Mandla Magagula.

The state has ask for a postponement until next Monday 29 September  and that all the accused are remanded in custody.

Ras and his wife did not oppose the postponement.

However, the court heard that accused Joseph Wilkinson will appear in the Pretoria High Court for another urgent  bail application. This comes after a bail application was heard and dismissed on Saturday morning at the same court.

Hawks spokesperson Paul Ramaloko called the syndicate’s operations the “serial killing” of rhino.

He said this court case must act as a deterrent for other syndicates.

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