Top military man arrested for dealing in rhino horn
One of the three alleged rhino horn dealers arrested in Walvis Bay recently, is a senior officer in the Namibian Defence Force (NDF), based at Grootfontein – he holds the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. This was revealed this week by deputy commissioner Erastus Iikuyu, Nampol regional crime investigations coordinator for the Namibian Police in Erongo.
“The recent arrests are a hard blow to the rhino poaching syndicates and the rhino horn trade in Namibia,” said Simson Uri-Khob, CEO of Save the Rhino Trust (SRT), in response to this major Police success.
So far two suspects appeared in the Magistrates Court in Walvis Bay after they were allegedly in possession of two “fresh” rhino horns. Exact details about how the arrests went down are still being kept under wraps. “We do not want to jeopardize the investigation,” said deputy commissioner Erastus Iikuyu. namib times understood from this more arrests might follow.
According to Iikuyu it was initially three suspects that were arrested on Sunday (16 April) at about 16:08 at the Walvis Bay Convenience Centre (Engen service station opposite Shoprite in the Walvis Bay central business district.)
The two rhino horns, believed to have originated from a recently poached rhino, were wrapped in tinfoil on the back seat of a pickup belonging to the wife of the army officer. It is believed the horns stem from a rhino poached on a farm in the Otjozondjupa Region in the vicinity of Otjiwarongo. It is not yet determined if it was a white or black rhino.
“When we closed in on the four suspects, one managed to run away,” Iikuyu continued. Of the three arrested per-sons, one suspect from Swakopmund was later released due to lack of evidence. The other two, Lieutenant Colonel Petrus Mutako Damaseb (49) from Grootfontein and Steven Omeb (29) from Okahandja appeared on a charge of being in possession of a pair of rhino horns. They are estimated to be worth about N$600 000.
The duo was denied bail and their case was postponed until 18 June 2017 for further investigations.
The third suspect, who fled the scene in Walvis Bay, was arrested on Tuesday morning at Otjiwarongo.
The suspect, Champion Kapans Haraseb (29) has been charged with rhino poaching. After a first appearance in the Otjiwarongo magistrate’s court, he was transferred in custody to Walvis Bay, to appear on a second count of dealing in rhino horn.
“This is a very good police success. It shows that Namibian’s are waking up and taking a stance against rhino poaching,” continued SRT CEO Uri-Khob. He added: “our hard work is finally paying off.” The SRT is not directly involved in the current investigations, but nonetheless “we wish to see future legislation seeing the light which would provide for fines of up to N$25 million and/or 25 years in jail for rhino poachers. Draft legislation in this regard was tabled in the National Assembly recently by the Minister of Environment and Tourism Pohamba Shifeta. The current sanction for rhino poaching is N$200 000 or 20 years of imprisonment.
Yesterday, the brother of the suspect Steven Omeb, Lesley Omeb, contacted namib times, alleging the police at Walvis Bay severely beat his brother after his arrest and that he is “unable to walk.” Omeb had to be hospitalised, according to Lesley Omeb. “I have not heard of this yet, but that must be investigated,” Iikuyu said in response to these allegations.
The two Rhino horns were wrapped in tin foil and found in the back of a pick-up recently in Walvis Bay. So far three suspects have been accused of dealing in rhino horn. The horns were apparently “very fresh” and still had blood stains on them. Photos contributed.