Verdict in rhino horns smuggling trial postponed

11 Aug 2016 12:50pm
WINDHOEK, 11 AUG (NAMPA) - The verdict in the trial of four Chinese nationals arrested between March and May 2014 in connection with rhino horn smuggling, was on Thursday postponed to 13 September 2016.
The ruling will be handed down in the Windhoek Regional Court in Katutura.
Regional Court Magistrate Alexis Diergaardt was expected to hand down the verdict in the matter Thursday but was unable to do so, because she was booked off sick for the rest of this month.
The postponement was effected as per agreement reached between the accused person's privately instructed defence lawyer Orben Sibeya and prosecution representative, State Advocate Simba Nduna in court.
The four Chinese nationals and alleged smugglers bitterly complained against the postponement.
Three of the accused- 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 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 smuggling operation, 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; possession of wildlife products; and 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 investigating officers learned he was back in the country, they tracked him down at a local hotel to make the arrest.
While in Namibia, Wang was staying in Otjiwarongo where he owns the Happy Life Import and Export Company.
All four remain in custody at the Windhoek Central Correctional Facility with no option to post bail until 13 September 2016 for the handing down of verdict.