Minister Edna Molewa welcomes sentencing of woman for smuggling of rhino horn

18 October 2017


The Minister of Environmental Affairs, Dr Edna Molewa, has welcomed the direct four-year imprisonment sentence handed down to a Chinese national in the Kempton Park Regional Court on 12 October 2017 after she pleaded guilty on charges related to rhino horn trafficking.

Shuangshuang Xue, 24, was arrested on 25 July 2017 at O R Tambo International Airport en route from Lusaka, Zambia to Hong Kong, China.  A suitcase that was checked in as baggage by the woman contained 14 pieces of rhinoceros horn with a weight of approximately 16 kg. The suitcase was intercepted by security personnel at the international terminal at the Airport.

The accused was arrested as there were no permits accompanying the suitcase and its contents. The rhinoceros horns were confiscated and handed in at the Forensic Science Laboratory of the South African Police Service (SAPS) to determine the origin of the rhinoceros horn or possible linkages with other investigations. During genetic profiling, it was discovered that the 14 pieces of rhinoceros horn were from the White Rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum) -from five different animals of which four were males and one female. None of the 14 pieces of rhino horn could be linked to any poaching incidents in South Africa or registered stock piles.

The National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act, 2004 (Act No. 10 of 2004) (NEMBA), requires that the original documentation from the country of origin must accompany a consignment. If there is no such original accompanying documentation, then an import permit issued in terms of NEMBA and in accordance with the provisions of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), is required.

The arrest, investigation and conviction  were the result of collaboration between officials from the SAPS, Customs division of the South African Revenue Services, security screening companies and Environmental Management Inspectors (EMI`s) from the Department of Environmental Affairs that are  based at OR Tambo International Airport as well as the National Prosecuting Authority.

“The outcome of this case which resulted from the collaboration between law enforcement officials and the prosecuting authority needs to be commended.  The sentence of imprisonment in this case sends a clear message that wildlife trafficking, which is a serious form of transnational organised crime, will not be tolerated in South Africa or within the region. It is only through such continued cooperation and collaboration that the battle against rhino poaching being undertaken through the Integrated Strategic Management of Rhinoceros Approach, will be won,” said Minister Molewa. 

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Albi Modise
Cell: 083 490 2871