Rhino horn case moved to April

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Maria Amakali

Windhoek-Two Chinese nationals accused of illegally dealing in wildlife products will have to wait till April to hear Windhoek magistrate Vanessa Stanley deliver judgement on their formal bail application.

Yanghui Lu, 41, and Nan Chen, 29, have been in the dock since January and face charges of possession of and illegally dealing in wildlife products.

The two were busted by the police at their rented flat in Eros, Windhoek on January 8. They were found in possession of 5.5 kg of rhino horns with an estimated value of N$400 000. Alongside the hidden rhino horns the police also found a poaching kit consisting of rifles and bullets.

The duo maintain the products found at the flat were not theirs as they were not the only ones that had access to the place. During cross-examination the two shared the same arguments that their landlord and two other tenants had access to the flat and it might be possible that the products belonged to either of them.

Even though Yanghui and Nan maintain their innocence, based on the evidence the State believes Nan came to collect the products from Yanghui in Namibia to take to China.

To strengthen its case, the State called in Berget Kotteng, an official from the Rhino Custodian within the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, to testify. Kotteng strongly opposed the idea of granting the accused bail, reasoning that any person that is suspected of dabbling in an illegal trade or acquiring illegal wildlife products should not get off lightly.

Kotteng explained that the illegal poaching of endangered species in the country, particularly rhinos, has resulted in their growth rate drastically dropping from 5 percent to 3 percent. He noted the ministry has embarked on dehorning rhinos which has affected the inflow of tourists to conservation areas where rhinos are found.

“The communal custodian has lost an income, as the tourist does not want to see rhinos that are dehorned,” explained Kotteng.

So far tens of rhinos have been poached in Etosha National park alone and areas in Kunene still remain prone to rhino poachers, said Kotteng.

Even though rhino horns have no value to the Namibian government, on the black market the horn is a priceless commodity going up to U$65 000/kg (the equivalent of N$838 500 at yesterday’s fluctuating foreign exchange rate).

Defence attorneys Kadhila Amoomo and Mbushandje Ntinda represented the accused with Rowan van Wyk representing the State.

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