The crooks behind rhino slaughter
By Julian Rademeyer, Financial Mail
Rifle in hand, a Vietnamese man with shoulder-length hair squats next to the carcass of a rhino. It’s a photograph taken in late 2006 on a game farm in Limpopo — “the first legal hunt of a rhino by a Vietnamese national” recorded in that province. The man in the picture called himself Michael Chu, but his real name is Chu Ðang Khoa.
Today, Chu is a wealthy businessman and notorious playboy. In numerous Vietnamese press reports — each one more breathless than the next — Chu is described as a “diamond tycoon” and “mysterious character” who spent several years in SA, where he “specialised in rhino horns, ivory and diamonds”. His ties to SA are such that the press have even nicknamed him “Khoa Nam Phi” or “Khoa, the South African”.
What the tabloids don’t say is that Chu left SA under a cloud in 2011, after being arrested for the illegal possession of five rhino horns. He was convicted, fined R40,000 and deported.
But according to a new report by the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime, Chu has emerged as a key player in a company supplying wildlife from SA to the Vinpearl Safari Park, a bizarre, Jurassic Park-style zoo on a Vietnamese island in the Gulf of Thailand. The zoo, built for a staggering US$147m, opened in December last year with plans to include more than 100 white rhino on the site. And the man helping Vinpearl source the rhino and other animals from private owners in SA: Chu himself.