Couple sentenced for facilitating illegal trade in reptiles from South Africa
27 JULY 2023
A Gauteng couple, Gerald and Elisha van der Westhuizen have been sentenced in the Kempton Park Regional Court, on Monday, 24 July 2023, for their role in the smuggling of reptiles from South Africa.
Mr Gerald van der Westhuizen was sentenced to a fine of R1 million of which half was suspended for five years on condition that he is not convicted of a similar offence.
His wife, Mrs Elisha van der Westhuizen 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).
The Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, Ms Barbara Creecy welcomes the sentences handed down to the Gauteng couple. “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 organized crime and targeting the value chain and financial crimes linked to the illegal wildlife trade,” said Minister Creecy.
“The Green Scorpions and the Environmental Enforcement Fusion Centre are to be commended for the critical analysis work and perseverance in the investigation into the smuggling of reptiles and amphibians, which is becoming a serious biodiversity crime in South Africa. The work confirms the commitment to protect our country’s unique natural resources,” added Minister Creecy.
The Gauteng couple were linked to two German nationals 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 Mr van der Westhuizen had on three occasions illegally sent Sungazer lizards to Germany and Mexico.
For media enquiries contact Mr Peter Mbelengwa on 082 611 8197