‘Art, Coffee Beans, Live Plants’: How Syndicates ‘Declare’ Rhino Horn At OR Tambo International Airport… The SA Revenue Service (Sars) has observed increased attempts to smuggle rhino horn out of the country through OR Tambo International Airport in the past year, with various false declarations used in a bid to hide the horns.
Some of the intercepted contraband has been labelled as “fine art”, “coffee beans” and “live plants”.
In the latest incident last Thursday the Sars customs unit, working with police, foiled an attempt to smuggle out rhino horn, seizing 17 pieces weighing 25kg.
Sars said its customs unit at the airport received information about the suspicious luggage.
“The customs team responded by dispatching officers to the baggage area where the luggage was scanned, revealing images. Two items of luggage wrapped in plastic were taken to the customs search area, where the luggage was rescanned and searched.”
On inspection, 17 pieces of rhino horn were found. The passenger and the goods were handed to the international police station for further investigation.
Sars said between July 2020 and April 2022 137 pieces of rhino horn weighing 482kg were detected through profiling and information-sharing networks.
In April 2022, 12 pieces of rhino horn were seized, weighing 30.7kg.
In December 2021, six pieces of rhino horn, weighing 4kg and declared as “personal effects”, were seized.
The same month the team seized five pieces of rhino horn, weighing 10kg and declared as “scanners”.
In July 2021, 32 pieces of rhino horn, weighing 160kg and declared as “live plants”, were seized.
In February last year, 18 pieces of rhino horn were seized, weighing 63kg and declared as “HP cartridges developers”.
The Sars team found 17 pieces of rhino horn weighing 72.4kg concealed in a geyser in December 2020.
Another six pieces weighing 4.9kg, declared as “coffee beans”, were seized in September 2020.
The largest consignment of rhino horn, comprising 41 pieces weighing 137kg, which were declared as “fine arts”, was seized in July 2020.
SARS commissioner Edward Kieswetter praised customs officers working with police to stem these crimes.
“It is clear the criminals have become more brazen in smuggling, especially the rhino horn.
“Our message must be unambiguous to these criminal syndicates, that we will spare no effort in confronting and dealing with them. Our future generation deserves to see the national heritage of our wild animals,” Kieswetter said.