WINDHOEK – The three Chinese men accused of trying to smuggle 14 rhino horns out of Namibia in March last year will plea to the charges in June in the Regional Court in Katutura.
The three are Li Xiaoliang (30), Li Zhibing (53), and Pu Xuexin (49). In December last year, the prosecutor general decided that the three should stand trial in the Windhoek Regional Court. They are charged with the two main charges of unlawful export of controlled wildlife products involving 14 rhino horns and a leopard skin.
The plea dates are June 25 and June 26.
They are also set to face a third main charge of the acquisition, use, possession or taking out of Namibia of property that forms part of the proceeds of unlawful activities, which is an offence in terms of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act.
The three men face an alternative charge under the main charges of unlawful export of controlled wildlife products. The three accused also face counts of unlawfully exporting or dealing in controlled wildlife products.
All three men pleaded not guilty to charges of possession of 14 rhino horns and a leopard skin, export of controlled wildlife products, and acquisition, use or possession of property that forms part of the proceeds of unlawful activities on November 13 last year.
They were arrested at Hosea Kutako International Airport on March 24, after 14 rhino horns and a leopard skin were found in two suitcases that Li Zhibing and Li Xiaoliang had checked in as part of their luggage on a flight with which they were planning to leave Namibia.
The three men claimed during a bail hearing in May that they did not know what the suitcases in their possession contained.
They were caught with the rhino horns, as well as a leopard skin valued at N$50 000, in their luggage on March 23 at Hosea Kutako International Airport on their way to Hong Kong via Johannesburg.
They allegedly wrapped the horns in plastic and foil and loosely tucked them between clothes in their suitcases.
The three have been in custody since their arrest last year. The three were denied bail in May last year. During the bail hearing the court heard they travelled the same day and their visa numbers followed each other.
The court further found that they did not pay for their own accommodation during their stay in Namibia.
During the bail hearing Xiaoliang said he was not aware of the contents of the suitcase found in his possession.