Pretoria, 9 November 2012 – The South African Revenue Service (SARS) welcomes the sentence handed down this morning by the Kempton Park regional court against a Thai national and prominent kingpin of an international rhino smuggling syndicate, Chumlong Lemtongthai (44).
Lemtongthai was arrested in 2010 and, together with five other suspects, was charged on various counts of fraud, customs and excise violations, and transgressions of environmental legislation.
Lemtongthai pleaded guilty to 59 charges on Monday 5 November 2012, and was today sentenced to 40 years in jail.
Today’s sentence was the successful outcome of comprehensive investigative work and co-operation between various State law enforcement agencies in the country including the SAPS Directorate of Priority Crimes Investigation (DPCI) – the Hawks, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) and SA National Parks (SANParks).
It must be acknowledged that more than 530 rhinos have been illegally killed in South Africa during 2012. The conviction of one individual is not a sufficient deterrent against rhino poaching and the illegal trade in animal products.
Law enforcement and state agencies in the country have to do a lot more and work together far more effectively to combat fraud, corruption and abuse of the entire system that includes the movement of passengers into and out of South Africa, the issuing of hunting permits and the illicit transfer of money, and the enforcement of environmental and other laws.
If State agencies, including SARS, continue to fail to enforce environmental and other laws effectively, it will make no measurable impact in the fight against rhino poaching.
Nevertheless, today’s sentencing is a significant achievement for law enforcement agencies who investigated the operations of an international smuggling syndicate and collusion with individuals in the private gaming industry in South Africa.
In a previous application before the court, one of the accused stated that SARS is continuing its financial investigation into his affairs which may lay a basis for future civil litigation from a tax perspective. SARS will continue to work with other law enforcement agencies in any future prosecutions of this nature.