DAWIE GROENEWALD - ALLEGED RHINO SYNDICATE KINGPIN
Information source: Julian Rademeyer, author of 'Killing for Profit'
In 2010, Dawie Groenewald and his wife Sariette and nine others, including professional hunters, veterinarians, a pilot and farm labourers, were arrested by the South African authorities.
"Groenewald himself faces 1,736 counts of racketeering, money-laundering, fraud, intimidation, illegal hunting and dealing in rhino horns. He is accused of killing fifty-nine of his own rhinos for their horns, then getting rid of the carcasses by burying them, burning them or selling them to a local butchery. In addition he’s charged with illegally dehorning dozens of the animals and selling at least 384 rhino horns over a four-year period." - Julian Rademeyer
The trial of Dawie Groenewald and his co-accused is still in progress. Dawie Groenewald is out on bail and so far has managed to escape jail by fighting his case with high powered lawyers.
In an interview with Dawie Groenewald, conducted by Julian Rademeyer, he said the following about his involvement in the rhino business: ‘It’s a good business...' and 'I want to shoot as many rhinos as I can get,’
Dawie Groenewald and his brother, Janneman Groenewald, ran the company Valinor Trading CC which traded as 'Out of Africa Adventurous Safaris'. They also own a breeding and hunting farm named Prachtig which is near Musina in the Limpopo Province of South Africa.
Groenewald first started selling rhino hunts on his farm in about 2008. One of his first clients was Alexander Steyn who had previously been linked to canned cheetah hunts. Steyn arranged hunts for Vietnamese 'hunters' interested in hunting rhino in South Africa. These Vietnamese 'hunters' were not actual hunters, but used it as a way to get around the illegal trade in rhino horn. By pretending to be trophy hunters they could get permits to shoot rhinos and then export the horns as trophies.
Groenewald bought 44 rhinos on auction between 2008 and 2009 from SANPARKS, an organization in charge of many of South Africa's national parks. These rhinos were sold to stock private game farms in South Africa as a way of protecting the species because they were being poached at an alarming rate due to the demand for rhino horn in the East. In 2008, SANPARKS made R22 million from the sale of rhinos and in 2009 they made R52 million. Many of the buyers of these rhinos were buying them, like Groenewald, to sell to Vietnamese 'hunters'. Groenewald said that anyone who sold hunts to American trophy hunters was 'fucked up' because the Vietnamese were paying a lot more for rhino hunts than the Americans. He however did sell rhino hunts to American trophy hunters illegally.
The South African government started to catch on to the Vietnamese 'hunters' using trophy hunting as a way to get rhino horns out the country legally and started to clamp down on issuing permits to these 'hunters'. Dawie Groenewald tried to intervene and got his lawyer to visit Vietnam at least twice to talk to CITES authorities there to try pressuring them to make it easier for trophy hunters from Vietnam to import trophy hunted rhinos into the country.
USA AND THE GROENEWALD BROTHERS
January 2010 - Dawie Groenewald was detained in the United States and charged for selling an illegal leopard hunt to a US sports hunter. He later pled guilty to the charges and was fined $30,000.
2014 - US Department of Justice charges Dawie and his brother, Janneman Groenewald, with “conspiracy to sell illegal rhinoceros hunts in South Africa in order to defraud American hunters, money laundering and secretly trafficking in rhino horns”.
According to the charges, the two brothers sold 11 rhino hunts to American trophy hunters. The hunters shot the rhinos but were told they could not send the rhinos back to the USA because it was not legal to export them. The hunters were able to take photos of their kills as proof for their record books. The Groenewald brothers would then sell these horns illegally on the black market. The trophy hunters paid between $3,500 and $15,000 for the illegal rhino hunts. One of the rhinos hunted by the trophy hunters was shot with a bow. The Hunter failed to kill it and it then had to be shot with a rifle.
The story of the 'Groenewald Gang' shows how trophy hunting was used to manipulate legal loopholes to assist poachers in their quest to obtain rhino horns. The links to US trophy hunters is also an interesting point to consider, the lengths trophy hunters will go to get their trophies is maybe legal, but when they are after rare or endangered species they will conduct business with dodgy characters like the Groenewald brothers. Poaching and trophy hunting may be different when it comes to the law, but the links between the two are alarming when one digs a little into the two worlds.