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Johannesburg: The state has opposed bail in the matter of a professional hunter and Limpopo game farm manager who was arrested last week for illegal possession of rhino horns, elephant tusks, and unlicensed hunting rifles.
The bail application of Samuel Liversage, 68, began in the Lenyenye Magistrate’s Court yesterday, and was postponed pending the results of further police investigation.
Liversage, who is listed as a full member of the Professional Hunters Association of South Africa (Phasa), was nabbed at Sandringham Private Nature Reserve last Thursday by the Rhino 08 Poaching Task Team, following a major investigation into an illegal weapons racket.
According to an official close to the investigation, the state opposed bail on grounds due to, among other things, the international outcry against rhino and elephant poaching, and the seriousness of the offence. Liversage remains in police custody until September 3 when his bail application resumes.
According to Brigadier Vish Naidoo, at the time of his arrest, Liversage was unable to produce possession permits for the rhino horns and elephant tusks, and serial numbers had been filed off some of the weapons found in his possession.
Investigators seized 11 firearms, four of which were said to be illegal, as well as 1322 rounds of live ammunition, and 155 empty cartridges.
A further search of the property yielded ten rhino horns and two ivory tusks.
The horns and tusks are currently the focus of further investigation, and are currently being scrutinised and forensically evaluated.
According to Timbavati chief warden, Brian Haveman, Sandringham is located to the south west of the lower Timbavati, and separated by a game fence.
“Sandringham is independently-owned by an Italian investor and multi-millionaire, and is not a member of the Timbavati group of reserves” Haveman said.
Naidoo said Liversage’s arrest came five days after the Rhino 08 team arrested a SAPS stock-theft unit captain and gunsmith, Captain Chris Du Plessis and three others for illegally killing a giraffe at the East Gate Game Farm, outside Hoedspruit.
Du Plessis was arrested when the Rhino 08 team found an unlicensed revolver, 1 x 270 rifle barrel, one wooden rifle butt, approximately 70 rifle rounds, an unlicensed firearm with the serial number filed off, and a 303 cartridge in his vehicle.
Police say they have good reason to believe rifle parts and barrels are being inter-changed and swapped in a ruse to confuse ballistics forensic test analysis.
Du Plessis was investigated by the Hawks for illegal weapons charges and hunting illegally in 2013, but the charges were never finalised, a police official has confirmed.
It is understood he faces further charges in several other matters.
He remains in custody pending his bail application on August 28, and has been given notice of suspension in terms of section 43 of the SAPS Act 68/1995.