South Africa probes minister’s links to rhino smuggling

South African police have launched an investigation into alleged links between the country’s security minister and a Chinese rhino horn smuggler, according to the government.

The probe announced on Thursday was prompted by claims made by Guan Jiang Guang, a self-professed rhino horn trader, in an undercover Al Jazeera documentary, that he was close to State Security Minister David Mahlobo.

“Cabinet noted the allegations in an Al Jazeera documentary against Minister of State Security, Mr David Mahlobo,” Jeff Radebe, a senior adviser to President Jacob Zuma, told journalists.

“The South African Police Services are investigating the allegations.”

Guang said he was friends with Mahlobo and had hosted him regularly at his massage parlour in Nelspruit in Mpumalanga province and at his home.

In secretly filmed footage, Guang showed off mobile phone pictures of himself and the minister, and said the minister’s wife was involved in the trade.

Pictures have also emerged of Mahlobo with parlour employees.

Mohlobo has denied any relationship with the businessman.

Selling rhino horn is illegal worldwide, but the animals face the threat of extinction due to a surge of poaching driven by demand for their horn in China and Vietnam.

The Al Jazeera investigation revealed that smugglers used packets of long strips of dried meat known locally as biltong to conceal shipment of ivory.