An artist’s impression of the court proceedings in Malawi. Picture: Environmental Investigation Agency Facebook page
Nine members of one of Southern Africa’s most prolific wildlife trafficking gangs were sentenced to a total 56.5 years behind bars in a Malawian court on Monday.
The gang were members of the Lin-Zhang syndicate and were each found guilty of at least one wildlife trafficking offence of a listed or protected species including pangolins, rhino horn, ivory or hippo teeth.
One of the convicted, Quinhua Zhang, was charged for being in possession of rhino horn and an illegal firearm. She was arrested in one of a series of coordinated raids in May 2019.
Zhang is married to Yunhua Lin, the alleged kingpin of the syndicate. Lin was arrested in August last year following a three-month manhunt.
He is due to appear in court on Wednesday on charges of possession of rhino horn, conspiracy and money-laundering.
The arrests and convictions have been hailed by Environmental Investigation Agency’s executive director, Mary Rice.
“Following years of concerted efforts and overcoming countless obstacles, this small nation has demonstrated how, with political will and determination, to dismantle one of Africa’s most prolific organised international crime syndicates.
“Fighting crime on this scale demands sophistication, collaboration, courage and tenacity. Malawi should be immensely proud – and other African countries currently battling the scourge of illegal wildlife trade would do well to follow this example of global leadership,” she said
Malawi’s director of National Parks & Wildlife, Brighton Kumchedwa, thanks all the stakeholders who took part in seeing successful prosecution of this landmark case.
“It is critical that wildlife criminals can expect to feel the full weight of the law and the message needs to be loud and clear: Malawi is no longer a playground for the likes of the Lin-Zhang syndicate that exploit our natural heritage, damage our economy, incite corruption and pose a risk to national security. This is indeed a victory for the Malawi – and a victory for wildlife in particular,” Kumchedwa said.
The sentences handed down at the Senior Resident Magistrate’s Court, in Lilongwe, were:
The Lin-Zhang syndicate is an organised crime network which has been operating in Malawi for at least a decade.
Source: The Mercury/IOL