10 Aug 2016 16:10pm
WINDHOEK, 10 AUG (NAMPA) - The verdict in the trial of four Chinese nationals arrested between March and May 2014 in connection with rhino horn smuggling, is expected to be made known on Thursday.
Regional Court Magistrate Alexis Diergaardt will hand down the ruling in the matter in the Windhoek Regional Court in Katutura at about 09h00.
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.
The three men 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 in 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 the 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 had apparently been travelling between China and Namibia regularly, and when the investigating officers learned that he was back in the country they tracked him down at a local hotel 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 remain in police custody at the Windhoek Central Correctional Facility with no option to post bail until Thursday for the handing down of the verdict.