NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 28 – A Chinese man who pleaded guilty to trafficking in ivory has been fined Sh20 million (1.4mn Yuan) by a Nairobi court.
Tang Yong Jian, 40, will serve seven years in prison if he is unable to pay the hefty fine.
While delivering the sentence on Tuesday morning, Makadara Resident Magistrate William Oketch said that even though Tang pleaded guilty and expressed remorse over the incident, he could not claim ignorance since ivory trade is a major cause of concern globally.
“The second limb of the offence in section 92 deals with endangered or threatened species of which the African elephant is an endangered species as declared in the Sixth Schedule of the Act and the accused is sentenced on count one to a fine of Sh20 million and in default to serve seven years imprisonment,” he ruled.
“Mozambique laws on ivory are weak and the situation is worsened by rampant corruption. The accused cannot honestly claim ignorance since the growth in illegal trade in ivory and the involvement of Chinese citizens is a major concern internationally,” the magistrate observed.
“In late October 2013, customs officers in Xiamen seized a 12 tonne shipment of ivory worth 600mn Yuan, the biggest ivory burst in Chinese history. The accused must therefore have heard about this.”
The Chinese national was arrested while carrying an elephant ivory tusk weighing 3.4 kilogrammes in a suitcase.
Kenya Wildlife Service deputy spokesman Paul Muya welcomed the ruling saying that it sent a strong message to poachers and those who engage in the illegal trade.
“This conviction is significant because all of us across the world are dedicated and we are dedicating our service to the security of the wildlife species. It is a statement of purpose and intent that we will be out there to combat smuggling of contraband ivory as well as ensuring that poachers will be nabbed,” he stated.
Hours before the Sh20 million fine was imposed on Tang, a second Chinese man was arrested at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) after he was found in possession of items made from Ivory.
Airport CID chief Joseph Ngisa said the man was in transit from the Republic of Congo to Guangzhou, China when he was arrested.
He was carrying three ivory necklaces, two ivory bracelets, ten pendants and two rectangular blocks of ivory.
The suspect was due to be charged in court for smuggling ivory, even after claiming that he bought the necklaces innocently.
Under the new law, which came into force a month ago, dealing in wildlife trophies carries a minimum fine of Sh1 million, a minimum jail sentence of five years or both.
The most serious wildlife crimes, the killing of endangered animals now carry penalties of life imprisonment, as well as fines of up to Sh20 million.
Previously, punishment for the most serious wildlife crimes was capped at a maximum fine of Sh40,000 and a possible jail term of up to 10 years.