Yesterday, Dan Ashe, Director of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service announced a 18-count indictment unsealed in Montgomery, Alabama, against Dawie Groenewald, 46, and his brother, Janneman Groenewald, 44, both South African nationals, and their company Valinor Trading CC, d/b/a Out of Africa Adventurous Safaris. The brothers were charged with conspiracy to sell illegal rhinoceros hunts in South Africa in order to defraud American hunters, money laundering and secretly trafficking in rhino horns. They were also charged with violating the Lacey Act, mail fraud, money laundering and structuring bank deposits to avoid reporting requirements. The charges covers their illegal activities from 2005 to 2010.
The 18-count indictment alleges the brothers would travel throughout the United States and attend hunting conventions and gun shows where they sold outfitting services and accommodations to American hunters to be conducted at their ranch in Mussina, South Africa. They would sell their illegal rhino hunts by misleading American hunters with a story that a particular rhino had to be killed because it was a “problem rhino.” They continued their lie by telling the hunters that although no trophy could be legally exported, the hunters could nonetheless shoot the rhino, pose for a picture with the dead animal, and make record book entries, all at a reduced price of between $3,500 and $15,000. The Groenewald brothers are alleged to have failed to obtain necessary permits required by South Africa for the hunts.
The indictment further alleges that the defendants would cut the horns off some of the rhinos with chainsaws and knives and illegally sell the rhino horns on the black market. Papers filed in federal court details 11 illegal hunts, including how one rhino had to be shot and killed after being repeatedly wounded by a bow, and another details the gruesome act of Dawie Groenewald using a chainsaw to remove the horn from a sedated rhino that had been hunted with a tranquilizer gun. The indictment also states that Janneman Groenewald lived in Autauga County, Alabama, where Out of Africa maintained bank accounts and is accused of money laundering and structuring deposits to avoid federal reporting requirements.
FWS Director Ashe stated, “The fact that defendants used American hunters to execute this scheme is appalling – but not as appalling as the brutal tactics they employed to kill eleven critically endangered wild rhinos. South Africa has worked extraordinarily hard to protect its wild rhino population, using trophy hunts as a key management tool. The illegal ‘hunts’ perpetrated by these criminals undermine that work and the reputation of responsible hunters everywhere.”