JOHANNESBURG (AFP) - South African authorities Wednesday seized assets worth almost $7 million of a game farm owner and two veterinarians accused of rhino poaching, police said.
Prosecutors, police and environmental officials "seized assets in the region of 55 million rands ($6.8 million, 5.2 million euros) believed to have been acquired through criminal activities, particularly rhino poaching," national police spokesman Vishnu Naidoo said in a statement.
The assets were seized from game farm owner Dawie Groenewald and two veterinary surgeons, Karel Toet and Manie Du Plessis, he added.
Groenewald is the alleged mastermind of a poaching ring who legally bought rhinos, but then slaughtered them to sell their horns, which are valuable in Asian traditional medicine.
The three are charged with 1,872 counts of racketeering, "which makes it one of the biggest wildlife cases in South Africa," said Naidoo.
Seizures include Groenewald's farm where wild animals are bred in northern Limpopo prov ince, reported local radio Eyewitness News.
A helicopter and the animals on Groenewald's farm, including rhinos, will also be confiscated until the verdict in their trial.
Groenewald, who is out on one-million-rand bail, has denied the charges against him.
"Generally, those that commit such crimes will serve their sentences but still come back to a life of luxury, but by seizing assets, criminals have no worldly possessions to enjoy and this certainly helps send out a clear message that crime does not pay," said Naidoo.
More than 161 people are currently on trial for rhino poaching or the illegal trade in rhino horn.
More than 200 rhinos have been poached in South Africa since the start of the year.