The following post is part of a media release by the Endangered Wildlife Trust of South Africa.
JOHANNESBURG, Friday 9th November 2012 – Today, at the Kempton Park Magistrates Court, Magistrate Prince Manyathi handed down a landmark sentence of 40 years imprisonment to Thai national and self-confessed rhino horn trader, Mr. Chumlong Lemtongthai. The sentence reflects the Court’s serious stance on the severity of environmental crimes. The Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) commends and fully supports this sentence.
Mr. Chumlong Lemtongthai pleaded guilty to 26 counts of contravening section 80 (1)i of the Custom and Excise Act, 91 of 1964 as well as to 26 counts of contravening section 57 of the National Environment Management Biodiversity Act, 10 of 2007 and the Prevention of Organised Crime Act. This essentially means that Lemtongthai admits to having obtained hunting permits that were fraudulently used to hunt rhinos and which led to the death of at least 26 rhinos and the illegal exportation of 26 rhino horns.
The charges against Lemtongthai’s five co–accused were, however, withdrawn on Monday the 5th of November when a plea agreement was reached between the State Prosecutor, Mr. Alan Simpson and the accused’s defence team. The EWT is not happy with the withdrawal of the charges but understands that there was not sufficient evidence to continue with the prosecution in this instance.
In sentencing Mr. Lemtongtai, Magistrate Manyathi reiterated the following:
- that pleading guilty to the charges did not reflect any remorse from the accused for the harm done to our biodiversity;
- that whether you are a poacher or a rhino horn trader, the crimes against our rhinos are equally severe and deserve severe sentences;
- that it is the duty of the court to uphold the law to the benefit of the community;
- that Mr. Lemtongtai deceived his co-accused as well as the conservation authorities when he applied for trophy hunting permits, and used Thai sex workers’ identities to obtain said permits; and
- that Mr. Lemtongthai’s ultimate goal was to obtain rhino horns at any cost and by any means, for financial gain and that 26 rhinos would probably still be alive but for Mr. Lemtongtai’s deceitful actions.
The EWT applauds the strong penalty handed down in the case against Mr. Chumlong Lemtongtai and congratulates the prosecution team on the successful completion of this case. The EWT further hopes that successful prosecutions for wildlife crimes and strong sentences such as this will increasingly be handed down in our courts and more poachers and wildlife traders are brought to book.
For further information and comment please contact Rynette Coetzee, Project Executant of the EWT’s Law and Policy Programme