By Alex Mitchley
An attorney arrested as part of the rounding up of one of South Africa’s biggest rhino poaching syndicates had an urgent bail application heard and overturned at the Pretoria High Court on Saturday morning.
The Pretoria High Court heard the application for bail, which stated that the accused was not a flight risk, had property and would suffer financially if he was not granted bail.
The judge said he thought the initial charge against the accused was a charge of theft to the value of R390 000 as stated on the warrant of arrest.
However, a statement from the Hawks’ Colonel Johan Jooste, which was submitted by the state, provided further details.
The accused also faces charges of racketeering, conspiracy, intimidation, keeping of a protected animal and the selling and receiving of rhino horns.
The judge said the charges were very serious. He added that the state showed the court that violence was involved when the alleged crimes were committed and that the accused was potentially part of the syndicate.
The court also noted the prevalence and severity of rhino poaching in South Africa.
Although the accused offered up his passport, the court was of the opinion that South Africa has long borders that could be crossed at anytime.
The court was also of the opinion that because the accused is a wealthy man, he will be prepared to pay any amount that is set as bail in light of the heavy sentences he will face if convicted.
On these grounds, the bail application was dismissed and the accused remained in custody.
The alleged kingpin of the syndicate and eight other syndicate members were arrested on Friday,while one or the suspects handed himself in, following a yearlong investigation.
The top man was arrested in front of the Pretoria North Magistrate’s Court as he arrived to appear on charges of illegal possession of scheduled substances and firearms.
All 10 suspects are expected to appear in Hatfield court in Pretoria on 22 September.