Zhong Whong, 29, a security guard in his home country, was found guilty in the Kempton Park Magistrate’s Court of fraud and breaking the Biodiversity Act.
He was caught at Johannesburg’s OR Tambo International Airport with 16.1kg of rhino horn in his luggage. It would have been worth about R2.2m in Vietnam.
“Fines are clearly not a deterrent,” Magistrate Prince Manyathi was quoted as telling Whong on Wednesday.
“You came to South Africa knowing you were going to do something unlawful. The goal was self-enrichment, without any consideration for what the damage would be.”
He dismissed the fact that Whong was simply the “mule” ferrying the horn from South African to Vietnam as a mitigating factor in sentencing him.
According to testimony from Mario Scholtz, of SA National Parks, rhino horn hunting had cost South Africa R40.6m this year alone, or 116 rhino.