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South African man sentenced to 17 months’ imprisonment for smuggling rhinoceros horn; heaviest sentence meted out for the smuggling of wildlife parts

08 Apr 2020

- 22kg or 11 pieces of rhinoceros horns, amounting to nearly S$1 million were found in two pieces of transit baggage bound for Vietnam

A 45-year-old South African man was sentenced to 17 months’ imprisonment for transiting Singapore with rhinoceros horns without a valid permit. This is the heaviest sentence meted out for the smuggling of wildlife parts in Singapore thus far.

On 5 January 2020, two pieces of transit baggage were flagged out at the Singapore Changi Airport for further checks. Upon inspection by officers from the Immigration & Checkpoints Authority, 11 pieces of rhinoceros horns weighing about 22kg estimated to be worth at least S$760,000 (approximately US$530,000) were found. The owner of the bags, who was travelling from South Africa to Vietnam through Singapore, was immediately arrested and the rhinoceros horns were seized by the National Parks Board (NParks).

Preliminary examinations by NParks indicate that the horns were likely to be taken from at least five individual White Rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum). Rhinoceros are protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). International trade in rhinoceros horn is prohibited. Singapore is a signatory to CITES and is committed to international efforts to curb illegal wildlife trade to ensure the long-term survival of these animals.

Under the Endangered Species (Import and Export) Act, the penalties for the possession of CITES-scheduled species in transit in Singapore without a valid CITES permit, is a fine of up to S$50,000 per scheduled species (not exceeding an aggregate of S$500,000), and or up to 2 years’ imprisonment. The same penalties apply to the possession of or transhipment of CITES-scheduled species, including their parts and derivatives.

The Singapore Government adopts a zero-tolerance stance on the illegal trade in wildlife. NParks will continue to collaborate with enforcement agencies nationally and internationally, and maintain vigilance to tackle the illegal wildlife trade.

There were two previous convictions of illegal smuggling of rhino horn through Singapore, both involving a Vietnamese individual, in 2014 and 2018. In both cases, the offenders were handed a 15-month jail sentence.

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Last updated on 06 April 2021

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