15 Jul 2016 15:40pm
WINDHOEK, 15 JUL (NAMPA) - The verdict in the trial of four Chinese nationals arrested between March and May 2014 in connection with rhino horn smuggling, has been put on hold until mid-August this year.
Regional Court Magistrate Alexis Diergaardt was expected to hand down the ruling in the matter in the Windhoek Regional Court in Mungunda Street in Katutura at about 09h00 on Friday, but could not do so due to other official commitments.
The judgement will now be delivered on 11 August this year.
The postponement was effected as per agreement reached between State Advocate Simba Nduna and the four accused persons' privately-instructed defence lawyer Orben Sibeya in court.
Three of the alleged smugglers - Li Zhibing, 53; Li Xiaoliang, 30; and 49-year-old Pu Xuexin - were arrested at the Hosea Kutako International Airport on 24 March 2014 with 14 rhino horns worth more than N.dollars 2.3 million and a leopard skin valued at N.dollars 50 000 stashed in their luggage.
They were arrested by members of the Namibian Police Force (NamPol)'s Protected Wildlife Resources Unit while they were on their way to Hong Kong via Johannesburg, South Africa.
The fourth accused, Wang Hui, 40, who is believed to be the kingpin of the rhino horn smuggling operation in Namibia, was arrested in May 2014 at a local hotel.
Accused Li Zhibing pleaded guilty to the unlawful export or attempt to export the rhino horns and leopard skin out of Namibia.
The other three - Wang, Li Xiaoliang and Pu - denied all charges against them.
They face charges of unlawful dealing in controlled wildlife products; unlawful possession of wildlife products; money laundering and possession of wildlife products; as well as bringing into or taking out of Namibia proceeds of unlawful activities.
Their request for bail in 2014 was denied.
Wang is also being investigated in connection with other rhino poaching cases in Namibia.
He apparently travelled between China and Namibia regularly, and when the investigating officers learnt that he was back in the country they tracked him down at the Windhoek Country Club Resort and Casino in May 2014 and made the arrest.
While in Namibia, Wang was staying in Otjiwarongo, where he owns the Happy Life Import and Export Company.
Windhoek-based defence lawyer Orben Sibeya is defending the four Chinese nationals, while State Advocate Simba Nduna is appearing for the prosecution.
The four men were again on Friday remanded in police custody at the Windhoek Central Correctional Facility with no option to post bail.