Bail for rhino horn suspects on hold

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Simon Endjala

Windhoek-The continuation of the formal bail application by two Chinese men arrested in January after they were allegedly found in unlawful possession of two rhino horns in the capital was on Monday put on hold until Thursday next week.

Their bail hearing was on Monday postponed to March 16 on request of the two Chinese nationals’ private defence team, Kadhila Amoomo and Mbushandje Ntinda.

Court papers availed to New Era show that Amoomo could not proceed with the hearing of the bail application on behalf of his Chinese client, as he is engaged in another case in the newly-refurbished High Court at the premises of the Windhoek Central Correctional Facility (formerly Windhoek Central Prison), in which he is representing three members of Windhoek City Police charged with murder in connection with the death of 17-year-old Windhoek resident Mandela Ramakhutla. Amoomo’s case in the High Court is scheduled to run for the rest of the week.

Ntinda, who was present in court on Monday, could also not continue with the bail application, as he has another matter that is being heard on March 9 and 10.
Monday’s postponement of the bail application was effected by Windhoek Magistrate Vanessa Stanley, in accordance with an agreement reached between the two defence lawyers and Senior Public Prosecutor Rowan Van Wyk.

Inspector Felix Ndikoma of the Namibian police, who was scheduled to give evidence against the granting of bail to the two Chinese nationals, was also instructed to be in court on March 16 for the continuation of the hearing.

The two Chinese nationals Yongui Lu, 41, and Nan Chen, 29, brought their joint formal bail application before Windhoek Magistrate Stanley over the past two weeks in the hope of being released on bail.

The State opposes the granting of the bail to the two foreign nationals on the grounds that the duo faces serious criminal charges and the State has a strong prima facie case against them, and for these reasons once released they could abscond from Namibia to other countries, or to their native China to evade prosecution.

The two men were both denied bail on January 23 when they made their first court appearance in the Windhoek Magistrate’s Court along Lüderitz Street, when Magistrate Ebben Iyambo remanded them in custody at Windhoek Police Station with no option of bail, because police investigations into the case were still at a preliminary stage at the time.

The value of the two rhino horns is estimated at N$44,000 with a total weight of about five kilogrammes.

NamPol spokesperson Chief Inspector Kauna Shikwambi told a media conference in January that the two Chinese nationals were arrested at Berghof Court in Eros. Shikwambi said a combined team of Nampol and City Police officers conducted a joint operation at the suspects’ flat and found two rhino horns and a shotgun.

Police Inspector-General Sebastian Ndeitunga earlier this year said poaching remains a serious concern in Namibia and suggested that most poachers are Namibians, while the buyers are most often Chinese nationals.

In November last year, another Chinese man traveling from Namibia was arrested in neighbouring South Africa after he was found with 18 rhino horns worth N$6.6 million in his luggage. It is not yet clear why the smuggled rhino horns were not detected at Hosea Kutako International Airport when the suspect passed through airport security on his way out of the country.

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