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Mozambique police have confirmed the arrest of four police security officials and two civilians implicated in the theft of rhino horns from a police strong-room last week. 

It is believed they are linked to a Chinese ivory and rhino horn trafficking syndicate based in Mozambique.

rhino horn
Rhino poaching survivor Thandi with her newly born calf in the Kariega Game Reserve near Port Elizabeth, in the eastern Cape Province. © Adrian Steirn, Kariega Game Reserve

At a media briefing in Maputo on Wednesday, police spokesperson Emidio Mabunda, revised the number of horns found to be missing from the “security” strong room at the Matola Police Command headquarters down to twelve.

The remaining 53 horns and 340 ivory tusks had been accounted for, he said. While the whereabouts of the missing horns is unknown at this stage, he said they have a pretty good idea.

Earlier in May a Chinese national was arrested at a rented house in the residential district in Tchumene, for the illegal possession of 65 horns and 340 ivory tusks.

A day later, a second Chinese national was arrested after he allegedly offered a bribe to policeman secure the release of his “colleague”.

The man reportedly claimed that he was acting on behalf of the Chinese embassy into the detention of his fellow-countryman, and allegedly placed 1.2 million meticais (US$34,700) on the table before the policeman. However, the officer was not on the take and the Chinese national was promptly arrested and charged for attempting to bribe a police officer.

Those arrested on Wednesday were four security people entrusted to guard the confiscated horns and poached ivory tusks in what has been recorded as Mozambique’s largest confiscation yet in the war on the illegal trafficking of rhino horns and ivory.

“On Friday, we discovered rhino horn replicas had been substituted to replace the actual horns that were in police custody” Mabunda told News24.

“The two civilians worked in the hand-crafting sector. We think they were taking orders from people who took the actual horns,” Mabunda said.

“We are now looking for two more individuals involved in making replicas,” he added. “They were using bull horns to replace the rhino horns.”


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