, MOMBASA, Jun 12 – Two alleged smugglers have been charged in Kenya for possession of a huge haul of seized ivory, prosecutors said, with police seeking a third man alleged to be the ringleader.
The find on June 5 of 228 tusks and 74 ivory pieces, together weighing well over two tonnes, is thought to be biggest in Kenya so far this year, according to the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS).
Abdul Halim Sadiq and Ghalib Sadiq Kara were charged on Wednesday in the port city Mombasa for being in possession of the stash of elephant tusks, magistrate Richard Odenyo said.
Both men, who run a car dealership, deny the charges.
An arrest warrant was also issued for businessman Feisal Mohamed Ali, who prosecutors say owns the ivory.
Defence lawyers asked for the pair to be released on bail, with the court expected to rule on that on June 18.
According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Kenyan and Tanzanian ports are the primary gateway for ivory smuggled to Asia.
Ivory is sought out for jewellery and decorative objects and much of it is smuggled to China, where many increasingly wealthy shoppers are buying ivory trinkets as a sign of financial success.
A sharp rise in poaching in Kenya, which is home to an estimated 30,000 elephants and 1,040 rhinos, has sparked warnings from conservation groups that the state-run KWS is losing the fight against the slaughter.