Trafficking in firearms

Offences

• possession or use of fraudulent licences

Item Types

• ammunition (Article 3(c))

Keywords

• Confiscation/seizure

Wildlife, forest and fisheries crime

Offences

• Wildlife crime

Prohibited Act

• Hunting (poaching)/killing
• Harvesting
• Acquisition/Possession/Ownership

Subject

• CITES / International protected species
• Domestic protected species
• Trophy

Details

• Undocumented/unlicensed conduct
• CITES protected species
• Protected area/habitat

Other Details

• Unlicensed conduct

Keywords

• Hunting (poaching)/killing
• Harvesting
• Acquisition/Possession/Ownership
• Domestic protected species
• International protected species (e.g. CITIES)
• Trophy

The State vs Ndlovu

UNODC No.:
ZAFx016

Fact Summary

Overview
In June 2016, inside the Makana Resort in Grahamstown South Africa, three men were arrested by the South African Police Service (SAPS) as part of a wider police operation called Full Moon. The three accused were caught red-handed, carrying a freshly removed 10.7kg rhino horn, a tranquilizer dart gun including darts and tranquilizers, a bow saw, ammunition, knives, side cutters, a cordless drill, and several phones and sim cards.

The investigation of the case could link the accused to 13 separate incidents of alleged rhino poaching which took place between 2013 and 2016. In April 2019, all three accused were found guilty on 50 counts and sentenced to 25 years in prison each.

Details
In June 2016 the white rhino Cambell was killed and his horn was taken at a farm in the district of Albany, South Africa. A post-mortem examination into the death of Cambell was initiated. The bull was lying in a large pool of blood with blood tainted foam located on its right side with the front horn missing. The sinuses and airways were exposed when the horn was removed, which was done using a sharp serrated blade. From the injuries it became apparent that the rhino was still alive during the procedure. Furthermore, the examination concluded that in the absence of a bullet entry into the rhino’s body, it had been immobilized by the use of a highly potent drug. The death of the animal was caused by the damage to tissues and blood vessels, the resulting blood loss along with the amount of pain.

As part of the operation Full Moon, an operation named after the fact that many rhino killings take place during periods of full moon, the South African Police Service (SAPS) arrested three men in the night of 17 June 2016. The three accused Jabulani John Ndlovu (accused 1), Forget Ndlovu (accused 2) and Sibusiso Sani Ndlovu (accused 3) were arrested in Grahamstown, South Africa. At the time of their arrest, several items used for rhino poaching operations were found in their chalet, including a freshly removed rhino horn and a saw (see full list below).

Further investigations found that the freshly harvested horn belonged to the white rhino Cambell. DNA material of the horn was also found on the saw seized during the arrest. During the course of the investigation, the poaching of Cambell was linked to nine other rhino killings which took place between 2013 and 2016 in several districts in South Africa. The post-mortem examinations of all crime scenes concluded the same modus operandi had been used for the killing and harvesting of the rhinos and their horns. In particular, the modus operandi encompassed: the incidents took place during the period of the full moon; tracks of two persons were found at each crime scene; dart guns and a specific dart (Pnew dart) were used; all rhinos were tranquilized using Etorphine and/or Thiafentanil; and the horns were removed in a specific manner with a saw. In some instances, the rhinos were heavily pregnant, in which cases the sub-adults’ horns had been removed in the same way as their mothers’. Moreover, cell phone data of the accused phones showed that the phones were used in timely and spatial proximity to the previous poaching incidents.

The accused were charged with ten separate incidents of alleged rhino poaching, including 50 counts related to these. In March 2019, the accused were found guilty on ten counts of theft; ten counts of carrying out a restricted activity involving a specimen of a protected species without a permit; ten counts of illegal hunting; ten counts of the possession of a scheduled substance; ten counts of unlawful possession of ammunition. Furthermore, 15 other counts on three separate poaching incidents that were initially on the charge sheet were separated and bound for another trial.

One month later, on 3 April 2019, the High Court of South Africa sentenced each of the accused to 25 years imprisonment.

Commentary and Significant Features

The case received wide-spread attention from the media and local community. The three accused, which became known as the ‘Ndlovu Gang‘, were charged with several hundred years of imprisonment. Ordered to run concurrently, the accused were effectively sentenced to 25 years of imprisonment each. Not only the hefty sentence but also other circumstances made this case stand out. First, there was the brutality involved in killing the rhinos, which were dehorned alive and died as a consequence of their wounds. Next was the fact that some of the rhinos were pregnant, in which cases the babies were killed and dehorned as well. Furthermore, one of the poachers worked as a qualified field guide in a nature reserve, which made his involvement in this type of crime seem more pathetic. All in all, the trial was emotional and almost one hundred people, among others a large delegation of park rangers, filled the court’s ranks.

Cross Cutting

Liability

... for

• completed offence
• attempt

... based on

• criminal intention

... as involves

• principal offender(s)

Confiscation and Seizure

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The following items have been seized during the arrest of the accused:

- One freshly removed rhino horn

- Tranquilizer dart gun

- Five tranquilizer darts

- Etorphine (M99) tranquilizer

- Yellow bow saw

- Rounds of .22 blank ammunition

- Two knives

- Side cutter pliers

- Cordless drill

- Six cellular phone handsets containing sim cards and one loose sim card

 

Defendants / Respondents in the first instance

Defendant:
Jabulani John Ndlovu
Gender:
Male
Nationality:
Zimbabwean
Age:
41
Born:
1977

The accused was charged with and found guilty on 50 counts:

- Counts 1, 6, 21, 26, 31, 36, 41, 51, 56, 61 related to theft of horns;
- Counts 2, 7, 22, 27, 32, 37, 42, 52, 57, 62 related to the contravention of the National Environmental Management - Biodiversity Act, 10 of 2004 (committing a restricted activity involving a protected species without a permit, i.e. cutting off and having in possession rhino horn without a permit issued);
- Counts 3, 8, 23, 28, 33, 38, 43, 53, 58, 63 related to the contravention of the Cape Provincial Ordinance on Nature and Environmental Conservation, 19 of 1974 (illegal hunting of wild animals by means of a device injecting an intoxicating or narcotic agent into the rhinos without holding a permit authorizing them to hunt by such means);
- Counts 4, 9, 24, 29, 34, 39, 44, 54, 59, 64 related to the contravention of the Medicines and Related Substances Act, 101 of 1965 (illegal possession of a schedule 6 medicine or substance, i.e. Etorfine (M99) and/or Thiafentanil); and
- Counts 5, 10, 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 55, 60, 65 related to the contravention of the Firearms Control Act, 60 of 2000, read with the Criminal Procedure Act of 1977 (unlawful possession of ammunition, i.e. the unlawfully possession of an unknown quantity of .22 calibre ammunition without a valid license).

 The accused was sentenced to 25 years of imprisonment.

Defendant:
Forget Ndlovu
Gender:
Male
Nationality:
Zimbabwean
Age:
39
Born:
1980

The accused was charged with and found guilty on 45 counts:

- Counts 1, 6, 21, 26, 31, 41, 51, 56, 61 related to theft of horns;
- Counts 2, 7, 22, 27, 32, 37, 42, 52, 57, 62 related to the contravention of the National Environmental Management - Biodiversity Act, 10 of 2004 (committing a restricted activity involving a protected species without a permit, i.e. cutting off and having in possession rhino horn without a permit issued);
- Counts 3, 8, 23, 28, 33, 43, 53, 58, 63 related to the contravention of the Cape Provincial Ordinance on Nature and Environmental Conservation, 19 of 1974 (illegal hunting of wild animals by means of a device injecting an intoxicating or narcotic agent into the rhinos without holding a permit authorising them to hunt by such means);
- Counts 4, 9, 24, 29, 34, 44, 54, 59, 64 related to the contravention of the Medicines and Related Substances Act, 101 of 1965 (illegal possession of a schedule 6 medicine or substance, i.e. Etorfine (M99) and/or Thiafentanil); and
- Counts 5, 10, 25, 30, 35, 45, 55, 60, 65 related to the contravention of the Firearms Control Act, 60 of 2000, read with the Criminal Procedure Act of 1977 (unlawful possession of ammunition, i.e. the unlawfully possession of an unknown quantity of .22 calibre ammunition without a valid license).

The accused was sentenced to 25 years of imprisonment.

Defendant:
Sibusiso Sani Ndlovu
Gender:
Male
Nationality:
Zimbabwean
Age:
39
Born:
1979
Legal Reasoning:

The accused was charged with and found guilty on 50 counts:

- Counts 1, 6, 21, 26, 31, 36, 41, 51, 56, 61 related to theft of horns;
- Counts 2, 7, 22, 27, 32, 37, 42, 52, 57, 62 related to the contravention of the National Environmental Management - Biodiversity Act, 10 of 2004 (committing a restricted activity involving a protected species without a permit, i.e. cutting off and having in possession rhino horn without a permit issued);
- Counts 3, 8, 23, 28, 33, 38, 43, 53, 58, 63 related to the contravention of the Cape Provincial Ordinance on Nature and Environmental Conservation, 19 of 1974 (illegal hunting of wild animals by means of a device injecting an intoxicating or narcotic agent into the rhinos without holding a permit authorizing them to hunt by such means);
- Counts 4, 9, 24, 29, 34, 39, 44, 54, 59, 64 related to the contravention of the Medicines and Related Substances Act, 101 of 1965 (illegal possession of a schedule 6 medicine or substance, i.e. Etorfine (M99) and/or Thiafentanil); and
- Counts 5, 10, 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 55, 60, 65 related to the contravention of the Firearms Control Act, 60 of 2000, read with the Criminal Procedure Act of 1977 (unlawful possession of ammunition, i.e. the unlawfully possession of an unknown quantity of .22 calibre ammunition without a valid license).

The accused was sentenced to 25 years of imprisonment.

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