9 Members Of South Africa’s Most Notorious Wildlife Trafficking Gang Sentenced To More Than 56 Years In Prison
After years of investigations and collecting evidence, nine members of one of Southern Africa’s most prolific wildlife trafficking gangs were sentenced by a Malawi court to a total of 56.5 years in prison.
The convicted were members of the Lin-Zhang syndicate and each was found guilty of at least one wildlife trafficking offense of a listed or protected species including: pangolins, rhino horn, ivory, and hippo teeth.
Among them was Mrs. Quinhua Zhang, who was convicted of possession of rhino horn and an illegal firearm following her arrest at a raid in May 2019.
Zhang is the wife of Yunhua Lin, the alleged kingpin of the syndicate, who was arrested in August of 2019 following a three-month manhunt. Lin, reportedly, was also recently sentenced to 11 years imprisonment for the possession of rhino horn, conspiracy, and money-laundering.
“Following years of concerted efforts and overcoming countless obstacles, this small nation has demonstrated how, with political will and determination, to dismantle one of Africa’s most prolific organized international crime syndicates,” Mary Rice, Executive Director of the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), said in a statement.
The Lin-Zhang syndicate has been operating in Malawi for more than a decade.
“Fighting crime on this scale demands sophistication, collaboration, courage, and tenacity,” continued Rice. “Malawi should be immensely proud, and other African countries currently battling the scourge of illegal wildlife trade would do well to follow this example of global leadership.”
“It is critical that wildlife criminals can expect to feel the full weight of the law and the message needs to be loud and clear: Malawi is no longer a playground for the likes of the Lin-Zhang syndicate that exploit our natural heritage, damage our economy, incite corruption, and pose a risk to national security,” stated Kumchedwa. This is indeed a victory for the Malawi, and a victory for wildlife in particular.”
The sentences handed down yesterday at the Senior Resident Magistrate’s Court, in Lilongwe, were:
Quinhua Zhang – A total of 11 years in prison (seven years for possession of rhino horn and four years for an illegal firearm, to be served consecutively);
Li Hao Yuan – A total of 11 years in prison (seven years possession of rhino horn and four years for an illegal firearm, to be served consecutively, plus 1.5 years for possession of pangolin scales, served concurrently);
Yanwu Zhuo – A total of seven years in prison (possession of rhino horn);
Ya Shen Zhuo – A total of seven years in prison (possession of rhino horn);
Jinfu Zeng – A total of eight years in prison (five years for possession of pangolin scales and three years for possession of worked ivory, to be served concurrently);
Guozhong Zhang – A total of three years in prison (two years for possession of pangolin scales and three years for possession of worked ivory, to be served concurrently);
Guohua Zhang – A total of three years in prison (possession of worked ivory);
Cosmas Sakugwa – A total of 1.5 years in prison (possession of worked ivory);
Steven Daza – A total of 1.5 years in prison (possession of hippo teeth).
In total, 14 members of the syndicate were apprehended last year. Of the remaining syndicate members arrested in May of 2019, one Chinese and two Malawian nationals, Cheng Qiang, James Mkwezalamba, and Julius Sanudia, have each been sentenced to three years in prison for possession of live pangolins or pangolin scales.
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