Correspondent|SEVEN Chinese men, who were arrested on 22 December last year after they were allegedly found in possession of rhino horns almost worth $1.8 million dollars, were on Tuesday further remanded in custody after the defence requested time to tender an application for discharge.
They are facing charges of violating some provisions of the Parks and Wildlife Act.
Zeng Dengui (35), Peicon Jang (35), Liu Cheng (23), Yu Xian (25), Yong Zhu (25), Chen Zhiangfu (30) and Qui Jinchang (29) were arrested after being found in possession of rhino horns following a raid by authorities at a rented Victoria Falls house.
They appeared before regional magistrate Collet Ncube facing unlawful possession of animal trophies and money-laundering charges before being remanded to February 27 after their lawyers indicated that they wanted to apply for discharge at the close of the State’s case.
“We have been given instructions to make an application for discharge. Our undertaking is to file a written application tomorrow (Wednesday) by close of business. We, therefore, kindly request the court to allow us time to do so,” defence lawyer Givemore Mviringi of Mviringi and Associates said.
The court heard that on December 22, 2018, detectives from CID Minerals Flora and Fauna unit in Victoria Falls received a tip-off that there were Chinese nationals suspected to be in possession of pieces of rhino horns at a house in the Aerodrome area.
The following day, armed with a warrant of search and seizure, detectives descended on the house and found the seven inside the house.
After identifying themselves, they requested to search all the rooms through Wang, who was conversant in English.
However, Wang informed the officers that he could not authorise the search as he was not the owner of the house.
The owner, Oscar Sikuka, was called and arrived 10 minutes later. He authorised the search after going through the search warrant.
The search led to the recovery of plastic bags hidden under a bed containing both semi and processed rhino horns, which had been cut into small pieces.
The trial faced initial delays as the courts sought an interpreter.
Martha Cheda represented the State.
Under Zimbabwe’s wildlife laws, it is a criminal offence to keep, possess, sell or dispose of any protected animal’s products or trophies. The offence attracts a custodial sentence.
The seven were arrested following a tip off from a local maid.
Police found the rhino horns, weighing 20,98kg and worth $1, 801,700 hidden in plastic bags, boxes and mattress. A digital scale was also found in Liu’s room.
Rhino horns are highly prized in some Asian nations like China and Vietnam where they are used for medicinal purposes.
Wildlife authorities in Zimbabwe are dehorning the country´s 700 adult rhinos to curb rampant poaching.