Controversial cannabis entrepreneur Russel de Beer is facing new charges of dealing after the police raided his Hartebeespoort Dam property. The 49-year old founder of the controversial Canapax ‘traditional healers cannabis license’ scheme, was arrested on 25 May 2021 and made a brief appearance in the Brits Magistrate’s Court the next day.
Hawks say De Beer was high on wanted list
The specialist investigative unit, the Hawks, said on 26 May 2021 that cultivation equipment, cash and cannabis were seized in the raid. Hawks spokesperson Captain Tlangelani Rikhotso said de Beer was wanted as one of the country’s largest suppliers of illegal cannabis.
De Beer – out on R100 000 bail; back in court in July 2021
He and three others face charges of cultivation and trafficking of cannabis and money laundering, all to the value of about R10 million, according to the Hawks.
The Hawks statement said: “Russel de Beer, 49, Archibald Mogale, 34, and Charne Steyn, 27, were arrested on Tuesday (25 May 2021) in Brits and Hartbeespoort Dam during an operation. During the search, R2m worth of dagga, R54 000 in cash and a Toyota bakkie were seized. Meanwhile, a preservation order was issued for cash amount of approximately R800 000 and a restraint order for a farm worth approximately R3 million. A fourth man, Ulrich Fritz, 25, handed himself over to the police and joined the three in court on Wednesday (26 May 2021)”.
Capt Rikhotso also indicated that the new case would be joined with De Beer’s 2019 case and that ‘De Beer and Mogale face several charges, including dealing in dagga, cultivation of dagga, fraud and money laundering to the tune of approximately R10-million. They were released on R100 000 bail each. Steyn and Fritz face charges of dealing in dagga. They were granted R10 000 and R5 000 bail respectively.”
Cannabis the Hawks allegedly confiscated from de Beer’s property (Source SAPS).
De Beer is still facing criminal charges arising from the Canapax controversy from 2018. He claimed that under a loophole in the law, cannabis could be sold as a medicine. Although he denied it was a franchise, he sold Canapax “intellectual property” to the public for R25 000 a piece to “legally” sell adult-use cannabis. He also sold cannabis through his Canapex web-site. According to media reports he sold 70 such franchises across South Africa during the course of 2019 before they were closed down by police.
Capt Rikhotso said “De Beer, who is a major supplier of dagga around the country, was previously arrested in 2019 when his shop, Canapax, was raided and dagga with other products worth approximately R3m were seized. The operation led the team to various Canapax branches around the country, which were shut down”.
The bust of what police called a “cannabis laboratory” in Brits resulted in de Beer spending Christmas 2019 behind bars. North-west Province police said they found 500kg of cannabis, estimated to be worth R3-million, as well as “hydroponic tunnels for cannabis cultivation, apparatus for processing and extracting oil, and numerous cannabis products”.
Canapax’s website, canapax.co.za, (since closed down) advertised branded products such as cannabis oil concentrate “used to boost the immune system” for R600, Nerve Tonic “for stress and anxiety” for R220, and Acne soap for R195.
At that time, De Beer said in a Facebook interview on DQ Central, which focuses on news about cannabis, at the time, that he was a traditional healer or druid. “The dispensaries work, fortunately, due to our [former] president Jacob Zuma signing into law [provisions of] the Traditional [Health Practitioners] Act that now allows the dispensary of plants and herbs, which previously were unregulated … [This allows me] to actually practise. So this was a revolution because most of our medicines were forbidden to be given to anybody …”