Translated from French by an automated online translation service, so please excuse the roughness. See link for original. Thank you to Anne Dillon for finding the article and doing the online translating.
It is a global scandal that Laam Co. and brothers have been released after being prosecuted for “stolen worth 40 million and 10 million paid to regain freedom.” That at least is the opinion of some experts on wildlife crime and Environment protection organizations, including protected species such as the elephant.
According to them, this decision, which comes from the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development that allowed Laam Brothers and Company to recover freedom in exchange for a large sum of money, is not normal. The respondents have in fact been arrested with a value of 35 million CFA francs representing 459 luxury jewelry made with hair from the tail of an elephant. They will subsequently be released.
The information hit the headlines, of course, because of the celebrity of their brother Yoro Laam, but especially the seriousness of the offenses for which they were prosecuted. The suspected traffickers, brothers of the famous jeweler, were indeed arrested in possession of elephant products before being later released, thus escaping a conviction.
The suspected traffickers, Abdoulaye and Ousmane Laam, Moustapha Seck, Fallou Gueye Assane Gueye, Sakane Gueye and Mor Gueye were arrested in flagrante delicto, June 2, 2015 in possession of 459 luxury jewelry made with hair from the elephant tail for a value of 35 million CFA francs.
These operations were conducted by the Criminal Investigations Division assisted the Ministry of the Environment and Sustainable Development. They were arrested for possession, circulation and marketing of trophies fully protected species; violations of the law of Senegal.
Jewelers had been brought before the Public Prosecutor, June 4, 2015, and immediately the subject of a Procuratorate return, without anyone really does know why. To the surprise of all, the case has finally ended in a transaction. Ten million francs, the amount that was helmeted by the respondents to recover freedom, according to the press. Indeed, the transaction, authorized by law, the prosecution off and terminate all legal proceedings. Result, the record of Laam Brothers and Co. was classified without result.
Thus, the decision of the Ministry of the Environment and Sustainable Development to agree to loosen the noose around the suspected traffickers in exchange for payment of a few million FCFA is not well appreciated by the world expert on wildlife crime Ofir Drori. According to him, this is synonymous with “failure of the rule of law.” He explains: “the fauna of this magnitude trafficking cases are always a test for the rule of law and corruption levels, and I am saddened to say that Senegal failed the test.”
Worldwide expert wildlife crime, Ofir Drori rages: “a country that respects its own legal system, does not prevent the cases to be heard by its courts.”
His feeling is “when criminals are not even brought to justice, that’s when you realize that impunity prevails over the rule of law. A country that respects its own legal system, does not prevent the cases to be heard by its courts.”
According to the world expert, African countries committed to the fight against wildlife crime never do the “Transaction” for cases of trafficking, particularly the business of international traffic like this. They do not negotiate with traffickers. “This is a bad precedent for Senegal. The fact that this case has never known a court procedure is a missed opportunity for Senegal to show its commitment to the fight against international wildlife trafficking,” said Ofir Drori.
Yet several times in 2014 in Dakar, traffickers were arrested and tried for the same offenses. These traffickers without fame and financially modest could not enjoy freedom of choice with respect to the transaction and have been tried and convicted, at present they have already or still serving their prison term.
Dror Ofir: “the rich are released, while the others are behind bars.”
Moreover, “the amount of the transaction, 10 million CFA, is three times less than the value of the products seized from traffickers, which is ridiculously small” denounces the protectors of wildlife. What compels the expert to say that “the rich are released while others go behind bars.”
“The state of Senegal, well known in his fight for the respect of human rights, he has ignored the principle of non-discrimination that all citizens would have equal treatment before the Justice? So why compromise?” asks the expert. “Underlining that at all levels, pressures in this case were obviously very strong,” accuses Dror Ofir.
In any case, the Minister for the Environment and Sustainable Development intervened in the case to ask his services to proceed with the transaction. Ofir Drori opportunity seized by to sound the alarm, because, he said, “elephants are fully protected in Senegal, possession, circulation and sale of elephant trophies are prohibited by Article L.32 of code hunting and wildlife protection, Act No. 86-04 of 24 January 1986. This animal is so critically endangered.”
The illegal wildlife trade occupies the Fifth largest illicit trades
To recall, the illegal wildlife trade is an organized transnational crime which occupies the fifth largest illicit business in the world (after drugs, weapons, money laundering and human trafficking). According to the United Nations Congress on Crime, he amassed illegal profit of about $ 19 billion each year. Ivory notably allows the financing of well-known terrorist groups like Al Shaabab, the LRA, the Jenjawids.
Today, “there is evidence that the explosion of ivory trafficking undermines the stability and security of African states because poachers and traffickers have firepower increasingly important and because this traffic is linked to terrorism and finance the wars in parts of Africa,” he says. The Secretary General of the UN, Ban Ki-Moon, had stated: “The illegal trade of species is a major threat to the security, stability, economy, natural resources and cultural heritage of many countries Africa.”
Everywhere, more and more African States take the path of suppression of international trafficking of species. We are witnessing everywhere arrests, multiplication and heavier prison sentences, to law enforcement, seizure and destruction of confiscated products. The question arises, therefore, the world expert, is “Senegal will he stay on the train, facing such a situation?”
The band of brothers Laam, a vast network of “businessmen”
Credited with being well connected internationally and very professional, the band was without legal authority and is considered to be an organized network of “businessmen” white collar to traffickers who import the raw material from Central Africa and West smuggled through their suppliers in Cameroon, Gabon, Congo, CAR, and Ivory Coast.
Thereafter, they make and sell these jewels in Dakar but also export abroad. In Europe, the destination markets, an elephant hair bracelet and gold sells between 1,000 and 5,000 Euros, unity. The traffic became very lucrative. However, this practice does not start today, according Ofir Drori. In 2013, in France, the French authorities had discovered that hair jewelry elephant traffic was between Dakar and Paris. They then took action.
Retro arrest of band members
Traffickers linked to the network have thus had trouble with the OCLAESP (Central Office for the Fight Against Attacks on Environment and Public Health) which is a French Office led by the French National Gendarmerie, which deals with violations regulated and protected species. A preliminary investigation was opened at the request of a French magistrate of the Parquet de Paris, she is still ongoing.
The Embassy of France in Dakar, therefore, before the Department of Water and Forests Senegal then conducted investigations have uncovered an extensive network specializing on this hair jewelry trade of elephants in Dakar. Embassies and international institutions had shown strong support for this action, which is a major success in the fight against international wildlife trafficking, a challenge that is becoming a major concern for African governments.
Ndèye Awa BEYE (Actusen.com)