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Government to recover K200 million from China nationals

AT COURT— Some of the China nationals and their lawyer Ndalama (left) Tuesday

Three China nationals Tuesday pleaded guilty to money laundering-related charges in a K200 million case involving proceeds of wildlife trafficking.

The China nationals—Lin Huixin, Li Hao Yuan and Hua Qin Zhang— have since paid back K118 million and surrendered a Toyota Fortuner worth K51 million to the authorities.

The three told the Lilongwe Chief Resident Magistrate Court yesterday that they will square the remaining K30 million within 30 days.

Chief Resident Magistrate Madalitso Chimwaza has since convicted them, pending sentencing on March 1 2023.

According to court documents, between September 1 2017 and November 26 2020, the China nationals, having reasonable grounds to believe that the sum of K379, 408,048.79 in whole directly represented proceeds of crime, disguised the true nature of the money by depositing and transacting with it through account number 9100000342170 of Moni International Limited domiciled at Standard Bank Malawi.

Senior State Advocate in the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions Pirirani Masanjala told the court that the accused opted to pay back the money as part of plea bargaining.

Two of the China nationals are already serving custodial sentences for other charges leveled against them last year.

Lawyer representing the three people, Chrispine Ndalama, pleaded with the court not to revoke the bail for the third accused, Lin Huixin, even though the court pleaded guilty to the charges.

“I am pleading with the court that Lin Huixin’s bail application should not be revoked since she is the only person in the family who is not in custody so that she should continue to look for money that is expected to be given back to the government,” he said.

According to Ndalama, the offence of dealing with foreign currency exchange attracts a fine.

During the hearing, Kankanige Anvra Piyaratana Alvis, a Sri Lanka national who is also a co-accused in the case, pleaded not guilty to two counts of money laundering.

According to court documents, between January 1 2019 and June 11 2021, without the permission of the Minister of Finance, Alvis and the China nationals exchanged foreign currency with each other amounting to $310, 000.

In the second count, the China nationals and Alvis are said to have, between December 5 2017 and January 2021, at Marina Casino in the City of Lilongwe, converted K128,590,518 into gambling chips, knowing or having reason to believe that it was directly or indirectly derived from the proceeds of crime.

Chimwaza has since set March 1 as the day he will continue hearing the case of Alvis.

Li Hao Yuan and Hua Qin Zhang are among the 10 China nationals and four Malawians who are in custody in connection with the issue of wildlife trafficking after police operations between 2017 and 2019 busted what is believed to be one of Africa’s largest wildlife trafficking syndicates.

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