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24 May, 2014

No Bail For Chinese Arrested With Rhino Horns At Windhoek Airport

WINDHOEK, May 23 (NNN-NAMPA) — Three Chinese nationals arrested with 14 rhino horns at the Hosea Kutako International Airport here in March this year, have been refused bail.

Windhoek Magistrate George Mbundu on Thursday refused to grant bail to the three Chinese nationals on the grounds that they are facing a very serious charge of being found in illegal possession of specially-protected resources, in this case animal products.

Another reason for the refusal of bail was that it was not in the interest of the public and the administration of justice to release the three men on bail while investigations into their case were still ongoing.

The magistrate also said that he was not really convinced that the three Chinese men would stay in Namibia once released on bail.

Following the court ruling, the three Chinese nationals were also transferred from the Windhoek Police Station’s holding cells to the Windhoek Central Prison’s holding cells, where they will be detained until their next court appearance on Aug 6 this year.

The 14 rhino horns, valued at 2.3 million Namibian dollars (about 222,000 US dollars), were allegedly poached in Namibia during the course of this year.

The three accused foreigners in the matter are Li Xiaoliang, 30, Li Zhibing, 53, and the 49-year-old Pu Xuexin.

In their failed bail bid, the three men told Mbundu that they wanted to be released on bail because the Namibian prison environment has become too harsh and difficult for them to handle.

They told the court that they will not abscond from Namibia once released on bail, and that they will abide by all bail conditions attached to their release. They further said they would not attempt to interfere with police investigations if the court grants them bail.

However, Public Prosecutor Antony Wilson strongly objected to the granting of bail on the grounds that the three men might abscond from Namibia to other countries in order to evade prosecution.

Windhoek-based defence lawyer Olivier Lino defended the three Chinese nationals, who each face two charges of illegal possession of specially-protected resources and illegal exporting the specially-protected products without having an export permit.

Apart from the 14 rhino horns, the Namibian Police Force’s Aviation Unit also found a leopard skin in their luggage at Namibia’’s international airport on March 23, 2014 as they were about to fly to Hong Kong via Johannesburg in neighbouring South Africa. — NNN-NAMPA