, MOMBASA, Kenya, Jan 9 – A Mombasa Court was Friday due to rule whether to release suspected ivory kingpin Feisal Mohammed Ali on bail.
State counsel Alexandar Muteti has opposed Ali’s release, arguing he remained a serious flight risk.
The suspect who featured on an Interpol list of nine most wanted suspects linked to crimes against the environment was arrested in Tanzania.
Ali faces trial for possession of and dealing in elephant tusks weighing more than two tonnes – equivalent to at least 114 slaughtered elephants.
The haul was discovered by police in June when they raided a car dealership, and after which Ali fled to Tanzania.
Muteti described Ali, 47, as an “international fugitive who cannot be trusted” and whose application for bail must be rejected.
“He is a man of many means and a powerhouse who can survive in any country. We urge you not to allow him a second opportunity to escape,” he told the court. READ: Alleged poaching boss a ‘flight risk’, court told
“A fellow who has perfected the art of cheating justice is ready to cross any international border without fear of being apprehended,” he said.
“If the court allows a person like the accused to operate with impunity, there is no doubt that there will not be a single elephant left in the country to be seen by future generations. Courts have a duty in this country to protect our environment and heritage for the sake our tourism industry,” he added.
“If released, he will definitely abscond,” Muteti told the court, dismissing the assertion from Ali’s lawyer that his client had a right to bail and would comply with its conditions.
Defence lawyer Cliff Ombeta, however, insisted that Ali was an innocent man who only evaded Kenyan police because he feared he would not get a fair trial.
“He was already in Tanzania when his name was published worldwide as a wanted person. He feared coming back after seeing on television that armed police were around his premises. He feared for the worse,” the lawyer said.
Elephant 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 just over one thousand rhinos, has sparked warnings from conservation groups that the government is losing the fight against the slaughter and that elephants could be extinct in the wild within a generation.