A police sting operation last May resulted in the discovery of 8 rhino horns in a Vietnamese home in the Centurion region of Pretoria. The haul was discovered after undercover police sold 2 rhino horn in KwaZulu-Natal and then followed the horn though to the accused. In addition to the rhino horn the police discovered a specially converted car with a hidden compartment, weighing scales, microchip readers and band saws.
When police arrived at the home of Gulit Chu Duc, aged 23, they discovered a rhino horn in the car and another one in a vice ready to be cut up. They also found 2 microchip scanners which officers believe were used to located any chips planted in the horn. The car was found to have a hidden compartment that was located between the back seat and the boot.
The raid on the house was conducted on 31st May last year.
While the discovery of 2 rhino horn in the possession of a top dealer may appear to have been a successful conclusion to part of Operation Whisper it was not until the next day that a police officer noticed that part of the garden had been newly dug. Officers then began digging and discovered another 6 rhino horns. Following DNA testing one of the horns was found to belong to a rhino that had been killed just days earlier at the Hluhluwe Umfolozi game reserve.
Duc pleaded guilty to possession and transport of rhino horn. In defence his lawyer said that the vehicle that Duc was driving was registered to his landlord who also owned a game reserve in Klerksdorp where legal rhino hunts were permitted.
Colonel Gerhard Vermeulen of the SAPS Forensic Science Laboratory said that no permits for the rhino horn had been found and why would the defendant need a car with a hidden compartment to transport the horn if they had been killed legally.
Duc appeared in the Johannesburg Magistrates Court on Friday and sentencing will be made on 6th December.