Chinese nationals languish in remand prison over $1,8 million rhino horns

By Tinashe Mungazi

THE seven Chinese nationals who were found in possession of 20,89kg semi and processed rhino horns with a street value of $1,8 million were on Tuesday further remanded in custody after the defence requested time to tender an application for discharge.

Zeng Denghui (18), Peicong Wang (35), Lin Cheng (23) Yu Xian (25) Long Zhu (23) Chen Xiangfu (30) and Qiu Jinchang (29) were last December 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.

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