Chinese businesswoman accused in world’s biggest ivory trafficking case


Lucy Taylor, Channel News Asia

Date Published

DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania: A Chinese businesswoman appeared in court in Tanzania on Monday (May 23) in what is believed to be the biggest ivory trafficking case of all time.

Yang Feng Lan, a 66-year-old originally from Beijing, denies smuggling the ivory worth US$2.5 million.

Ms Yang came into court with her face covered by a scarf, clearly embarrassed about the huge attention her case was attracting.

She has forged a career in Tanzania over decades, first as a Swahili translator and later as a respected businesswoman, but the prosecutors accuse her of living a secret life as one of Africa’s foremost ivory traffickers.

They said she organised the smuggling of more than 700 elephant tusks and that would make this the biggest case of its kind.

The demand for ivory in Asian countries including China is causing a wildlife crisis in Africa. An elephant is brutally killed every 15 minutes for its tusks. Tanzania has lost more than 60 per cent of its elephants over the last five years.

Ms Yang has always denied she had anything to do with this crime. In court, the judge warned the media that she has not been convicted and should be treated fairly.

He said the investigations are still ongoing and that she will appear in court again in two weeks time.