DA questions NPA decision on poachers

The DA wants to know why the NPA dropped charges against Chumlong Lemthongthai’s co-accused.

Thai national Chumlong Lemthongthai appears in the Kempton Park Magistrate's Court on Friday, 20 January 2012.Picture: Werner Beukes/SAPA

CAPE TOWN - The Department of Environmental Affairs has been asked to explain why criminal charges were dropped against five people linked to a convicted rhino horn smuggler.

Last week, Thai national Chumlong Lemthongthai was sentenced to 40 years in jail by the Kempton Park Magistrate's Court for illegally exporting rhino horn.

While briefing Parliament's Portfolio Committee on Water and Environmental Affairs on Tuesday, Democratic Alliance (DA) MP Gareth Morgan asked officials why charges were withdrawn against five of Lemthongthai's co-accused.

The department's Deputy Director-General Fundisile Mketeni said, "[The National Prosecuting Authority] wanted to nail [Lemthongthai] by using state witnesses."

Morgan asked officials whether they had seen a video that surfaced in the media, which showed a disturbing rhino hunt.

The emergence of this video called into questioned the NPA's decision.

Around 549 rhino have been poached in South Africa since the beginning of 2012.