By: Simon Bloch
30 January, 2017 19:30
Lawyers acting for a wealthy Limpopo game farmer arrested on Friday have filed an urgent bail application to have their client released from police custody in Lephalale‚ where he faces serious charges under the biodiversity act.
Antonio Xavier Freitas‚ 55‚ appeared in the Lephalale Magistrate’s Court on Monday and was formally charged with unlawful hunting of rhinos without a permit‚ and purchasing and possessing rhino without a permit.
After the prosecution read the charges‚ Freitas’ attorney filed an urgent bail application. The bail application resumes when the court opens on Tuesday. According to police spokesman Motlafela Mojapelo‚ the state will oppose the application and under the law can hold the suspect for seven more days pending further investigations.
More arrests are expected soon.
Acting on a month-long investigation‚ members of the Limpopo Stock Theft and Endangered Species Unit raided Freitas’ Steenbokpan farm‚ Ringbult‚ and seized body parts of at least seven dead rhino‚ rhino skins‚ and what is believed to be rhino meat‚ from a refrigerated cold-room.
The lower portions of eight rhino legs and seven rhino tails were removed as evidence. The animals were allegedly transported to the farm without transport permits last November‚ and illegally slaughtered without necessary hunting permits. The source of the rhinos is still under investigation.
Rhinos are a protected species governed by strict regulations under the Threatened and Protected Species (TOPS) regulations. Police also claim to have received information the animals’ horns were loaded onto a helicopter which was seen taking off from the property.
According to an investigating officer Freitas a naturalised South African citizen is of Portuguese descent‚ and arrived in South African about 37 years ago.
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