Gauteng couple found guilty of smuggling reptiles

Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, Barbara Creecy, has welcomed the conviction of a Gauteng couple, Gerald and Elisha van der Westhuizen, for their role in the smuggling of reptiles from South Africa.

“The conviction and sentencing demonstrate the important work being undertaken in implementing the National Integrated Strategy to Combat Wildlife Trafficking with a focus on disrupting transnational organised crime, and targeting the value chain and financial crimes linked to the illegal wildlife trade,” the Minister said on Thursday.

The Gauteng couple was linked to two German nationals, who were earlier convicted of smuggling lizards and other reptiles from South Africa, through an analysis by the Environmental Enforcement Fusion Centre.

An analysis of WhatsApp messages found that Gerald van der Westhuizen had on three occasions illegally sent Sungazer lizards to Germany and Mexico.

The couple was sentenced in the Kempton Park Regional Court on Monday. Gerald was sentenced to a fine of R1 million, half of which was suspended for five years, on condition that he is not convicted of a similar offence; while Elisha was sentenced to five years direct imprisonment.

The sentence has been wholly suspended for five years on condition that she is not convicted of Contravening the Prevention of Organised Crime Act (POCA).

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