The Cape Town Regional Court jailed the manager of a Sea Point curio shop for in effect five years on Tuesday for the illegal possession of ivory worth R32 million.
Mark Goldberg, 52, appeared before magistrate Wilma van der Merwe, who sentenced him to an additional two years in jail, conditionally suspended for five years.
She declared the illicit ivory forfeited to the national conservation authorities.
Van der Merwe said a lot of illegal ivory was “doing the rounds” in the country, and that merchants involved in the lawful sale of ivory had to be especially observant about its origins.
“From the outset, I make it clear that the accused was the manager of the shop, and not the owner,” she said.
The court found it improbable that the accused was not aware of or dealing in ivory. The conviction was based on the finding that, as the manager, he was fully aware of what was going on in the shop.
The court ruled that the accused had full legal responsibility as the manager.
There was no indication that Goldberg was in any way involved in any illegal trade from the unlawful killing of elephants, she said.
It was crucial for shopkeepers to be able to distinguish between legal and illegal ivory, but without the necessary permits, this was impossible when the ivory reached the shops.
Goldberg had been unable to explain why the shop was in possession of one ton of ivory without the necessary documentation.
Trade in ivory was banned in the late 1980s, because supply could not keep up with demand and the elephant population showed a sharp decline.
Raiding outlets was one of the measures used by the authorities to curtail illegal trade, she said.
Goldberg was granted leave to appeal both his conviction and sentence on five counts involving the possession and sale of the ivory, and his R50 000 bail was extended pending to outcome.
Van der Merwe clarified the circumstances surrounding an arrest warrant for Goldberg, who did not appear at the last hearing.
Media reports about the arrest warrant had incorrectly suggested that Goldberg had unlawfully failed to appear in court.
However, his absence had been agreed to by the prosecutor and the defence team, which themselves had not been available.
Although the court had authorised the arrest warrant, this was normal practice if an accused person was absent.
She had directed that it be “held over”, and executed only if Goldberg failed to attend Tuesday's proceedings.
“The accused's absence at the last hearing was never a point of contention, it was arranged that way,” she said. - Sapa