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Chinese nationals get 11-year sentence

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The Principal Resident Magistrates’ Court in Lilongwe has sentenced two Chinese nationals to 11 years imprisonment after they were convicted on charges of trafficking wildlife products and firearms possession.

According to Principal Resident Magistrate Florence Msekandiwana, the two, Quin Hua Zhang and Li Hao Yuan will have to serve seven-year jail terms for being found with rhino horns and another four years for being found in possession of firearms illegally. The sentences will run consecutively.

The court has also sentenced other five Chinese nationals to different jail terms on the same charges.

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Msekandiwana said the sentences should serve as a warning to would-be offenders. She also recommended the deportation of the Chinese nationals after serving their respective sentences.

“I sentence Quin Hua Zhang and Li Hao Yuan to seven years imprisonment for being found with rhino horn and another four years for being found with illegal firearms. I sentence Yanwu Zhuo – Ya Shen Zhuo to seven years imprisonment for being found with rhino horn,” Msekandiwana said.

She has also sentenced Jinfu Zeng to five years for being found with pangolin scales and to three years for being found with ivory.

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Msekandiwana has also sentenced Guozhong Zhang to two years for being found with pangolin scales and three years for being found with ivory and has passed a three-year sentence to Guohua Zhang for being found with ivory products.

Two Malawians, Cosmas Sakugwa and Steven Daza, have been slapped with one-and-a-half years in prison for being found with ivory products and hippo teeth.

All sentences are custodial. Meanwhile, all the wildlife products and firearms have been forfeited to the government.

Lawyer representing the State, Andy Kaonga, said hailed the court for the sentences.

“What I take out from the sentences is that the court has actually ordered that some of the people should serve consecutive sentences because they were also convicted recently for possession and also dealing in ivory. You normally don’t get courts giving out consecutive sentences,” Kaonga said.

Meanwhile, Director of National Parks and Wildlife, Brighton Kumchedwa, has praised various stakeholders that played roles in “seeing the 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,” Kumchedwa said.

In 2016, Malawi was identified as a ‘country of primary concern’ and Southern Africa’s principal transit hub for ivory trafficking.

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