On Monday, Malawi authorities sentenced nine members of a prolific wildlife trafficking gang to a total of 56.5 years imprisonment.
The gang members of the Lin-Zhang syndicate were arrested in May 2019 and were individually charged at the Magistrate’s Court in Lilongwe Malawi for one wildlife trafficking offence of a listed or protected species including pangolins, rhino horn, ivory or hippo teeth.
The Environmental Investigation Agency’s executive director, Mary Rice, has applauded the arrests and welcomed the sentencing.
“Following years of concerted efforts and overcoming countless obstacles, this small nation has demonstrated how, with political will and determination, to dismantle one of Africa’s most prolific organised international crime syndicates”, she said.
Malawi’s Director of National Parks & Wildlife, Brighton Kumchedwa thanked all the stakeholders for the successful prosecution of this landmark case.
“It is critical that wildlife criminals can expect to feel the full weight of the law and the message needs to be loud and clear: Malawi is no longer a playground for the likes of the Lin-Zhang syndicate that exploit our natural heritage, damage our economy, incite corruption and pose a risk to national security. This is indeed a victory for Malawi – and a victory for wildlife in particular,” Kumchedwa said.
Sentencing for the nine was given as follows:
- Quinhua Zhang – total 11 years in prison (seven years for possession of rhino horn and four years for an illegal firearm, to be served consecutively)
- Li Hao Yuan – total 11 years in prison (seven years possession of rhino horn and four years for an illegal firearm, to be served consecutively, plus 1.5 years for possession of pangolin scales, served concurrently)
- Yanwu Zhuo – total 7 years in prison (possession of rhino horn)
- Ya Shen Zhuo – total 7 years in prison (possession of rhino horn)
- Jinfu Zeng – total 8 years in prison (five years for possession of pangolin scales and three years for possession of worked ivory, to be served concurrently)
- Guozhong Zhang – total 5 years in prison (two years for possession of pangolin scales and three years for possession of worked ivory, to be served concurrently)
- Guohua Zhang – total 3 years in prison (possession of worked ivory)
- Cosmas Sakugwa – total 1.5 years in prison (possession of worked ivory)
- Steven Daza – total 1.5 years in prison (possession of hippo teeth)
The Lin-Zhang syndicate gang has been an organised crime network in Malawi for at least a decade.