Notorious rhino poaching ringleader Dawie Groenewald along with his brother Janneman Groenewald have been indicted in the U.S. on multiple charges surrounding rhino poaching.
The men have been charged with “conspiracy to sell illegal rhinoceros hunts in South Africa in order to defraud American hunters, money laundering and secretly trafficking in rhino horns”.
Dawie used his safari company, Out of Africa Adventurous Safaris to conduct the hunts.
According to the 18-count indictment, from 2005 to 2010, the Groenewald brothers travelled throughout the United States to attend hunting conventions and gun shows where they sold outfitting services and accommodations to American hunters to be conducted at their ranch in Mussina, South Africa. During the time Janneman lived in Alabama, where Out of Africa maintained bank accounts, and is accused of money laundering and structuring deposits to avoid federal reporting requirements. -US Department of Justice
The Groenewalds essentially sold the rhinos without permits, under the guise they were “problem rhinos” and were very “dangerous and aggressive”. Although the trophies could not be imported back into the US, the hunters were allowed to pose with the bodies and were told the hunt could count toward their hunting “status” in record books.
After the photos were taken, Dawie would then cut off the horns with a chainsaw and sell them on the black market, earning profit from both the hunt and the horn sale.
The Lacey Act
It is a U.S. conservation law that prohibits trade in illegal wildlife. This law is far-reaching, one of the broadest and most comprehensive forces in the federal arsenal to combat wildlife crime. It is under this law, where a vast amount of charges come against the Groenewalds.
The “Groenewald Gang”, including Dawie and 9 others were arrested in 2010 on a variety of similar charges to that of the US. Dawie himself, remains free, has 1500 charges against him, and has killed more than 15 rhinos. The case has been repeatedly postponed, with the current date being set for August of 2015.
The South African authorities have given “substantial cooperation” to the US investigation. As far as the extradition request, SA states “such assistance will be provided”. It is unclear when this will happen.
American hunters involvement
The hunters who paid between $3,500 and $15,000 for the illegal rhino hunts, are not being brought up on charges. They were cooperative with authorities on their involvement with the safari outfitter, and essentially were misled. They believed there were appropriate hunting permits in place, and that the rhinos were “problematic” animals.
“Frankly these hunters should have known better. All hunters should consider this a warning that when they are involved in an overseas hunt for any species, they should make sure that the hunt that they are considering is offered by a reputable guide service operating in a country certified by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as managing its wildlife responsibly and sustainably,” said Dan Ashe, director of US Fish and Wildlife Services
So is this the end of the Groenewald gang? And perhaps more importantly, will this send a strong message to trophy hunting groups like Safari Club International?
“We are literally fighting for the survival of a species today. In that fight, we will do all we can to prosecute those who traffic in rhino horns and sell rhino hunts to Americans in violation of foreign law,” said Sam Hirsch, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division. “This case should send a warning shot to outfitters and hunters that the sale of illegal hunts in the U.S. will be vigorously prosecuted regardless of where the hunt takes place.”