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Rhino kingpin to appeal ruling

Thai national Chumlong Lemtongthai’s lawyer is angry and shocked with Friday’s ruling.

Chumlong Lemtongthai and his alleged accomplices. Picture: Alex Eliseev/EWN

JOHANNESBURG - Lawyers for rhino horn smuggler Chumlong Lemtongthai on Friday reacted with shock and anger to his 40-year jail sentence handed down in the Kempton Park Magistrate's Court.

This after the Thai national pleaded guilty to around 50 charges relating to him using fake trophy hunters to abuse the legal permit system.

The sentence has been widely hailed as a victory in the war against rhino poaching.

Lemtongthai's lawyer, Terry Price, said his client basically received a double life sentence.

"I would absolutely love to comment, but at the moment, I'm shocked and to put it very mildly, I'm angry."

Price said they will now approach the high court to appeal Friday's ruling.

Magistrate Prince Manyathi ruled that Lemtonghtai had shown no remorse and that his crimes were no different from that of a poacher.

He said he does not want his grandchildren growing up in a country where the only rhino they can see are in books or photographs.

Manyathi added the courts had a responsibility to protect what he called the "pride of Africa".

In handing down his sentence, the magistrate disregarded the fact that Lemtongthai was a first time offender, that he pleaded guilty and that he had already spent more than a year in jail.

Meanwhile, the South African Revenue Service (Sars) said its investigation will continue into those associated with Lemtongthai.

Sars' Adrian Lackay said the sentence shows the power of several law enforcement agencies working together.

"The work of Sars, from a tax and civil litigation perspective, will definitely continue and it's not the end."