Dar es Salaam. A Chinese woman described by investigators as the “kingpin of ivory trading” was yesterday charged with smuggling elephant tusks worth Sh5.4 billion.
Ms Yang Feng Glan was charged at the Kisutu Resident Magistrate’s Court along with Tanzanians Salvius Matembo and Manase Philemon.
They were not allowed to enter a plea because the court does not have jurisdiction to handle the case.
Ms Yang is alleged to have operated in Tanzania for 14 years as the main link between poachers and international buyers.
She has allegedly been financing people who have been killing elephants in protected areas, and she buys elephant tusks and supplies them to other people engaged in the illegal trade in ivory.
State Attorney Nassor Katuga alleged in court that the accused committed the offence between January 1, 2000 and May 22, 2014.
According to Mr Katuga, Ms Yang was involved in the smuggling and trading in 706 elephant tusks weighing 1,889 kilogrammes and worth Sh5.4 billion without a licence from the Director of Wildlife.
Going by the estimates of anti-poaching experts, the 706 tusks mean that about 350 elephants were slaughtered.
The three were also charged with involvement in organised crime. They are alleged to have illegally collected, transported and sold the ivory for profit without a permit from the Director of Wildlife.
Mr Philemon was also charged with escaping from lawful custody.
It was alleged before the court that on May 21, 2014 at Sinza Palestina in Kinondoni District, the accused escaped from police after he was detained for illegally possessing government trophies.
A certificate from the office of the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) objecting to the accused being released on bail was submitted in court.
Their lawyer, Mr Nehemia Nkoko, requested that his clients be released on bail, pending determination of the case against them. The court is today expected to rule on the application.
Ms Yang’s arraignment came just a week after another Chinese woman, Ms Li Ling Ling, was charged before the same court along with four Tanzanians with aiding the smuggling of ivory worth over Sh267 million to Switzerland.
They were also charged with three counts of conspiracy, leading organised crime and unlawful dealing in trophies.
The four include TPDF soldiers Salum Mnyonesu and Albadil Mshana, who were seconded to Julius Nyerere International Airport (JNIA).
The accused allegedly conspired with other persons to facilitate the smuggling of ivory.
They are alleged to have aided the smuggling out of the country 150kg of elephant tusks, 21 lion teeth and 35 lion claws, all valued at $127,334 (Sh267.4 million) without export certificates.
Their case will be mentioned next Monday.