Cape Town - An anonymous tip-off led to the downfall of Mark Goldberg, a Sea Point curio shop owner found to have R32 million in ivory illegally in his possession.
Goldberg was sentenced in April to serve five years behind bars after being convicted of the illegal possession and sale of ivory.
Now the national Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) has secured a provisional court order compelling him to disclose all his assets and surrender them into the custody of a curator.
Details of how the police clamped down on Goldberg have emerged in court papers submitted by the DPP to the Western Cape High Court.
It was about 1.30pm on August 17, 2009, when Paul Gildenhuys, a programme manager at CapeNature’s Biodiversity Crime Unit, received a call on his cellphone from an anonymous person, tipping him off about a large amount of illegal ivory at The Gift House curio shop in Sea Point.
The caller told him that the ivory was from Zimbabwe and that Goldberg was moving it from the shop.
Gildenhuys said in a statement that he and a colleague met police officers later that afternoon and inspected the shop. As they searched it, he saw items on the shelves he believed might be elephant ivory.
They had asked Goldberg for his permit, which would have allowed him to sell ivory legitimately, but he was unable to produce such a document.
Gildenhuys said Goldberg had asked him who had given them the information.
“Mr Goldberg claimed that he knew who the person was who called us and provided us with information,” Gildenhuys said in his statement, written in Afrikaans.
Goldberg alleged that the caller had broken into his shop and stolen 38 boxes of ivory.
“Mr Goldberg claimed that the person tried to blackmail him and that the extortionist had said that, should he not meet his demands, he would report [Goldberg] to the police,” the statement by Gildenhuys read.
Goldberg told Gildenhuys he had not given in to the person’s demands, and that the person had consequently reported him to the police, leading to their inspection of his shop that day.
The authorities found 43 905 ivory items in the shop – including jewellery, keyrings, figurines and combs – with a combined weight of just over 1 500kg.
They also found 379 blocks of ivory at Goldberg’s Sea Point home, as well as several items at his mother’s home in the same street.
The estimated value of all of the items was a little more than R32.1m.
Acting Judge Wilhelm van Staden issued an order last Tuesday allowing a curator to take control of Goldberg’s assets, including his home and his business’s stock.
This comes amid Goldberg’s bid to appeal in the high court against his conviction by the Cape Town Regional Court and the sentence handed down to him.