Operation Crash: U.S. Indicts Groenewald Brothers for Rhino Horn Trafficking

The trail of a notorious South African rhino horn trafficker has led to the United States. Photo: Karl Stromayer/USFWS
The trail of a notorious South African rhino horn trafficker has led to the United States. Photo: Karl Stromayer/USFWS

South Africans Dawie Groenewald and his brother Janneman have been charged in the United States with conspiracy to sell illegal rhino hunts, and numerous related crimes, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

The federal indictment charges the Groenewald brothers and their company (Valinor Trading CC, dba Out of Africa Adventurous Safaris) with Lacey Act violations, conspiracy, mail fraud, international money laundering, and structuring (“structuring bank deposits to avoid reporting requirements”). Between 2005 and 2010, they sold illegal hunts to American hunters at gun shows and conventions, including donating hunts to a Safari Club International (SCI) auction in Kansas City, Missouri in 2006, and a National Rifle Association (NRA) auction in Louisville, Kentucky in 2008.

In order to cover up their rhino horn trafficking operation, the Groenewalds told American hunters that the rhinos which would be hunted were “problem” or “nuisance” animals, and as such, trophies could not be exported. They intentionally did not obtain permits from either provincial or national authorities in South Africa for these hunts. After the rhinos were shot and the requisite trophy photos taken (the defendants also paid videographers to film some of the hunts), the horns were removed by “agents and employees” of Out of Africa, and allegedly sold on the black market.

Payments for these illegal rhino hunts were made by American hunters to Janneman Groenewald in Autauga Countly, Alabama; funds were transferred to and from Dawie Groenewald and Out of Africa in South Africa.

U.S. Attorney George L. Beck, Jr., said, “These defendants tricked, lied and defrauded American citizens in order to profit from these illegal rhinoceros hunts.”

“Not only did they break South African laws, but they laundered their ill-gotten gains through our banks here in Alabama. We will not allow United States’ citizens to be used as a tool to destroy a species that is virtually harmless to people or other animals.”

Sam Hirsch, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division, warned, “We will do all we can to prosecute those who traffic in rhino horns and sell rhino hunts to Americans in violation of foreign law.”

This case should send a warning shot to outfitters and hunters that the sale of illegal hunts in the U.S. will be vigorously prosecuted regardless of where the hunt takes place.”

The ongoing investigation of Out of Africa is part of “Operation Crash”, an ongoing nationwide effort to bring rhino horn traffickers to justice, led by the Special Investigations Unit of the Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement in coordination with the U.S. Department of Justice. South Africa’s National Prosecuting Authority and the South African Police Service “Hawks” provided invaluable assistance in the investigation of Out of Africa.

The U.S. plans to seek extradition of the Groenewald brothers to face charges.

See also: South Africa’s Game Industry Insiders Continue to Evade Punishment for Rhino Crimes.

Source: justice.gov



Rhishja Cota-Larson

I am the founder of Annamiticus, and I work as an independent Wildlife Trade and Communication Design Consultant. I have journeyed to the streets of Hanoi to research the illegal wildlife trade, and to the rainforests of Sumatra and Java to document the world’s rarest rhinos. I am a Co-Chair of the SSN Pangolin Working Group. At CITES meetings, I collaborate with colleagues from around the world to lobby in favor of protecting endangered species. I am a Wildlife Trade and Trafficking Consultant for the upcoming documentary The Price, the host of Behind the Schemes and author of the book Murder, Myths & Medicine. I enjoy desert gardening, herping, reading, designing, and walking with my dogs.