Update: Marnus Steyl case
Game farmer Marnus Steyl, who was linked to the notorious Xaysavang rhino horn smuggling syndicate, initially stood trial alongside Thai national Chumlong Lemtongthai and a number of other accused including professional hunter Harry Claassens. The charges against Steyl and the others were withdrawn in November 2012 after Chumlong pleaded guilty and exonerated his co-accused in a plea agreement. Chumlong was sentenced to 40 years in prison. (The sentence was later reduced on appeal to 30 years).
Steyl was re-arrested in December 2012. This followed the broadcast of a 3rd Degree documentary by Debora Patta and Killing for Profit author, Julian Rademeyer, which showed horrific footage of an alleged “pseudo-hunt” involving Steyl and members of the syndicate.
On 25 March 2013, Steyl was charged with 29 counts of fraud relating to the acquisition of hunting permits for alleged pseudo-hunts. He was also charged with two counts of illegally hunting white rhinos.
The case has been provisionally postponed to 31 March, 2014. Steyl has meanwhile approached the Pretoria High Court for a permanent stay of prosecution. On 12 February, 2014, Judge Legodi Phatudi referred the application to trial for oral evidence to be heard. Phatudi said there were factual disputes between Steyl and the National Prosecuting Authority that could not be dealt with on the basis of the court papers alone.
Steyl argues that the charges against him were “formally and fully” withdrawn by the State prosecutor who accepted Chumlong’s plea and that he cannot be tried again. The National Prosecuting Authority contends that South Africa’s Criminal Procedures Act makes no provision for the final withdrawal of criminal charges.
In this video, Rademeyer discusses the case and South Africa’s desperate battle to save rhinos from extinction. He argues that the poaching kingpins in Laos and Vietnam remain largely untouchable. For more on Steyl and the Xaysavang syndicate, read chapters 8, 9 and 15 in Killing for Profit.