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South Africa: police seize US$1.7 million rhino horn consignment

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Members of the Pilanesberg National Park Anti-Poaching Unit stand guard as conservationists and police investigate the scene of a rhino poaching incident in this April 19, 2012 file photo. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

PRETORIA (SAnews) – The South African Revenue Services’ (SARS) Customs unit scored a massive victory when officials pounced on a consignment of rhino horns worth over US$1.7 million at the OR Tambo International Airport (ORTIA).

In a statement, SARS said the 36 pieces of rhino horn were found after Lizzy, a detector dog, reacted positively to a consignment of so-called “decoration items” in a warehouse.

“Customs officials accordingly cut open eight boxes attached together with bubble wrap. The horns, destined for Dubai, were hid underneath cut laminated wooden sheets in four of the boxes which were otherwise filled with doormats and decorative items,” said SARS spokesperson Sicelo Mkosi in the statement.

He said the consignment weighed 116kg, with an estimated value at US$1.7 million. The street value of these horns is assumed to be much higher.

“The inspection at the warehouse formed part of an initiative to increase enforcement activities on cargo for outbound flights, following recent reports that rhino horn, originating from South Africa, has been detected in the Far East. This initiative is continuing,” he added.

SARS said the South African Police Services (SAPS) and the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigations (HAWKS) were alerted, and a criminal case was registered for further investigation.

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