By Kevin Heath
South African courts have released two major rhino horn smugglers because the government were unable to provide court interpreters. The two Vietnamese rhino horn smugglers were caught in November 2010 after a routine search at a roadblock. The smugglers were aboard a bus and had 12 rhino horn concealed in their suitcases.
Xuan Binh Dang, 25, and Huong Giang Chu, 32, were released from prison by the courts on Monday and their cases were stuck off after the governments failure to provide interpreters. The smugglers had been held in custody awaiting trial for the last 30 months.
At the time the seizure was the biggest single haul of rhino horn in the Western Cape province. It still remains the largest case dealt with in the province of rhino horn poaching.
When the accused appeared before the court on Monday for their cases to be heard the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development told the court that their were unable to find suitable Vietnamese interpreters. The two that were listed had problems, The first interpreter was not registered on the departments database and the second interpreter had problems with their tax certification so could not be paid.
There were also problems with the departments computer system so that no purchasing orders could be issued for new interpreters.
The court ordered that the men be immediately released and that the cases be struck from the courts. Even though the men had been held in custody for 30 months the case had not progressed even to the stage of having a plea entered.
Had the men been convicted, they could have faced a R100 000 fine or 10 years in jail, or both, and another fine of up to three times the commercial value of the horns, which amounts to R7.8 million.