The Kisutu Resident Magistrate’s Court in Dar es Salaam yesterday sentenced two Chinese to 35 years in jail each for illegal possession of elephant tusks valued at over 5bn/- and corrupt transactions.
The magistrate took into consideration the evidence produced by nine prosecution witnesses, who were summoned to prove the charges against the convicts. Principal State Attorney Faraja Nchimbi, assisted by State Attorneys Paul Kadushi, Wankyo Simon and Salim Msemo, led the prosecutions team in the case. They had requested the court to severely punish the convicts considering the seriousness of the offence committed.
The prosecution gave provoking mitigation factors, revealing that the statistics show that a total of 892 live elephants have so far been killed and the amount of tusks the convicts were found with were 210, which is equivalent to 25 per cent of elephants killed.
Such large number of killed elephants, according to the prosecution, has an adverse effect to the tourism sector and, thus affecting the country’s economy in general. The prosecution, therefore, requested the court to show no mercy at all to the convicts.
On their part, the convicts, through their advocate Nehemia Nkonko requested the court to provide them with lenient sentence because it was the first time to be convicted with a criminal offence and that they have been in remand for so long.
The magistrate, having considered the nature of the offence committed and mitigation factors sentenced each accused to pay fine ten times the market value of the tusks involved or go to jail 30 years in default of paying the fine.
He also sentenced the convicts to five year imprisonment for attempting to bribe the police officers 30m/- who had gone to arrest them in connection with the offences. The two had been charged jointly with another Chinese, Chen Jinzhan (34), who was acquitted after the prosecution failed to establish prima facie case against him. It was alleged that the accused persons committed the offence on November 2, 2013, at Kifaru Street, Mikocheni B in Kinondoni District in the city.
The prosecution told the court that jointly and together, the accused persons were found in unlawful possession of 706 pieces of elephant tusks weighing 1,889kg valued at 5,435,865,000/-, property of the government without a permit from the Director of Wildlife. It was reported that the said pieces representing the slaughter of about 400 elephants were found in sacks of garlic at the house of the Chinese nationals.
Well-armed criminals kill elephants and rhinos for their tusks, largely due to increasing demand in China for ivory ornaments and folk medicines. It is reported further that most of the tusks smuggled from the east African country end up in Asia.
International trade in ivory was banned in 1989 after the population of elephants dropped from the millions in the mid-20th century to about 600,000 by the end of the 1980s. Last year, a Tanzanian Member of Parliament said poaching was out of control with an average of 30 elephants being killed for their ivory every day.
In August 2011, Tanzanian authorities seized more than 1,000 elephant tusks hidden in sacks of dried fish at Zanzibar port and destined for Malaysia.