Singapore’s largest seizure of Rhino horns: South African man has been sentenced to 2 years jail

The 34.7kg haul of rhinoceros horns, was valued at an estimated S$1.2 million (US$895,400) and they were intercepted in October 2022.

At the Changi District Court, Gumede Sthembiso Joel, a South African national, has been sentenced to two years in jail for attempting to transport 34.7kg of rhinoceros horns through Changi Airport.

The verdict was delivered on Friday, January 26, following Joel’s guilty plea to charges of transporting 18 pieces of white rhinoceros horn and two pieces of horns from the rarer black rhinoceros into Singapore without a valid permit.

The 34.7kg haul of rhinoceros horns, was valued at an estimated S$1.2 million (US$895,400) and they were intercepted in October 2022. The discovery marked a significant victory in the ongoing battle against illegal wildlife trade, which threatens endangered species and undermines global conservation efforts. This seizure was Singapore’s largest seizure of rhino horns.

During the court proceedings, the prosecution argued that Joel’s actions posed a severe threat to the conservation of rhinoceros populations, particularly the endangered black rhinoceros. The prosecution tried to demand a jail for 37 months, based on the two different species, by citing Xavier Yap Jung Houn’s case where the sentences for killing two sons ran consecutively because they were distinct acts.

On the other hand, Eddy Tham, the district judge, said that the situation was different in this case because Gumede was involved in a single transaction when he checked in both bags carrying both types of horns. The district judge also said that this was quite corresponding to a drug trafficker, who was found with several drug packets, that were further analyzed and found to contain more than a single type of drug. The judge explained that sentences are specially ordered to run simultaneously in those particular cases.

Gumede was sentenced to a simultaneous jail term of 24 months for the white rhino horns and 14 months for the black rhino horns. The district judge Eddy Tham also asserted that Gumede was not engaged in acquiring or packing rhino horns. Whereas, he appeared at the airport in South Africa, and from there he took the cargo from his accomplice, Jaycee Israel Marvatona, who is a South African man.