The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) has hailed Malawi courts, Malawi Police Service and the Department of National Parks and Wildlife for sentencing the Lin-Zhang syndicate, one of Southern Africa’s most notorious wildlife trafficking gangs, to a collective 56 years in jail.
In a statement, IFAW said the sentences have sent a strong message that Malawi was serious in its quest to end the illegal exploitation of Africa’s wildlife.
The convicts received sentences of 11 years each for possession of rhino horns and firearms.
“The Malawi Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW) and the Malawi Police should be applauded for their tireless dedication in bringing this syndicate to book,” IFAW quotes Patricio Ndadzela, Chief of Party of the USAID/IFAW Combatting Wildlife Crime project, based in Lilongwe, as saying.
“Investigators have been tenacious. It has taken years of hard work, but it has paid off and Malawi should be proud of the achievements of their law enforcers.
“We’re delighted that we have been able to contribute to the intensive long-term investigation, arrest and prosecution of this gang.”
On Monday, courts handed down verdicts for nine detainees linked to the Lin-Zhang syndicate.
In addition to the masterminds, two other Chinese nationals received seven-year sentences for hoarding rhino horn, while a further three received six-year terms for illegal possession of pangolin scales and worked ivory.
Two Malawians received 18-month sentences for illegal possession of ivory and hippo teeth. A further five people remain in detention and await sentencing.
Authorities believe the Lin-Zhang gang have been operating in Malawi for at least a decade.
In 2016, Malawi was identified as a transit hub for illegal wildlife product due to lax border control, weak legislation and poor law enforcement.
FAW has worked in Malawi since 2008 to support the DNPW in its efforts to protect wildlife and end poaching and related wildlife crime. IFAW, with support from USAID, is implement the Combating Wildlife Crime (CWC) in the Malawi-Zambia Transboundary Landscape Project.
IFAW is a global non-profit helping animal and people thrive together. They are experts working across seas, oceans and in more than 40 countries around the world. The organisation rescues, rehabilitates and releases animals into the wild as it strives to restore and protect their natural habitats.
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