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South African Hunting Safari Operator Linked to Illegal Rhino Horn Trade and Thai Strippers
A seemingly endless supply of links between trophy hunters and the illegal rhino horn trade.
It was revealed today by South African media investigations that safari operator Marnus Steyl is believed to be a major player in the rhino horn trading racket involving Thai national Chumlong Lemtongthai.
As part of the trophy hunting scam, young women from Thailand were reportedly trafficked into South Africa to pose as “rhino hunters” and to work in “brothels and strip clubs”.
‘Paper trail’ shows connection between Steyl and Lemonghai
Earlier this month, Lemongthai was arrested for allegedly laundering rhino horn for the illegal market with trophy hunting permits. He arrived in South Africa in June 2011 with an “order for 50 sets of rhino horn” in hand.
The Media24 investigation uncovered a paper trail of business transactions and photographs which establish that Steyl was supplying rhino horns and lion bones to Lemongthai’s employer, Xaysavang Export Import, based in Laos, Cambodia.
It was also noted that Steyl “owns or has interests in farms and businesses in the Free State, North West Province, the Eastern Cape and Abu Dhabi”.
The Mail & Guardian sheds further light on the unsavory situation, and links the syndicate’s activities to human trafficking.
A Vietnamese national, Vixay Keovang (aka Vixay Xaysavang) has also been named as a leading figure in the syndicate.
And then there’s Groenewald
A key investigator on the case told the Mail & Guardian that Dawie Groenewald is connected to the Steyl-Lemongthai operation.
Despite facing charges of assault, fraud, corruption, malicious damage to property, illegal possession of firearms and ammunition, and contravention of the National Environmental Biodiversity Act, Groenewald is apparently back in business.
He recently sold nine rhinos to a South African game rancher, who is already tied to a professional hunter, arrested twice for involvement with similar trophy hunting scams.
A hunting permit was also issued to Groenewald, allowing him to legally kill rhinos.( Take a look at copies of the permits here.)
Both Steyl and Groenewald have reportedly denied any connection to Lemongthai.