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Four Chinese nationals seek High Court’s relief on wildlife crimes conviction

The High Court in Lilongwe is yet to give its ruling on an appeal case of Chinese national Li Hao Yaun and three others who were convicted and sentenced on matters relating to wildlife crime.

The four were in court on Thursday where their lawyer argued that their conviction has to be quashed and set aside and or the sentences reduced.

In July last year, nine members of the Lin Zhang gang, including the four appellants, were sentenced to a total of 56 years in prison for known operations relating to wildlife crimes.

Those that have appealed against their conviction and sentence were found guilty of possessing pangolin scales and pieces of rhino horns and two of them had to be in prison for 11 years, as the other two had to spend seven years in jail.

A notice of appeal from the defense states that Jinfu Zeng, Yanwu Zhuo, Ya Shen Zhuwo, Li Hao Yaun and Qinhua Zhang being dissatisfied with the respective judgements of Resident Magistrate Msekandiana on conviction in June 2020, and on sentence in July 2020, appeal to the High Court against the respective judgements on both conviction and sentence.

Lawyer for the Chinese nationals, Chrispin Ndalama while indicating that the judgements were faulted, has withdrawn and appeal from Jinfu Zeng, leaving four appellants on the list.

“We are appealing against conviction because some of them were convicted for possessing rhino horns which were not found with them but in rooms of other people,” Ndalama highlighted.

In additional arguments as presented within the grounds of appeal, the defense points out that the magistrate misdirected herself when she applied evidence from an ‘untrusted witness’ to determine conviction for the four.

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On his part, lawyer for the state, Andy Kaonga, commented that the state still holds a belief that the appellants possessed cut pieces of rhino horns and Pangolin scales.

“When you look at the seven years handed over to them and the way that the offense was committed, one must also consider that rhino species are very rare.

“The lower court even said that these people wanted to move out of the country with the items and we are confident that the court (High Court) will confirm the sentence or even enhance it,” explained Kaonga.

High Court Judge Annabel Mtalimanja is expected to make her ruling on a date yet to be advised.

 

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