BY CHARLES LAITON
The seven Chinese nationals charged with illegal possession of more than 20kg of rhinoceros horn pieces worth $1 million got temporal reprieve after Bulawayo High Court judge Justice Martin Makonese last Friday granted an order stopping their trial at the Hwange Magistrates’ Court, pending review.
Zeng Dengui (35), Peicon Jang (35), Liu Cheng (23), Yu Xian (25), Yong Zhu (25), Chen Zhiangfu (30) and Qui Jincheng (29) have been in custody since their arrest on December 23, 2018.
Through their lawyer, Martin Chasakara, the accused denied charges of money-laundering and possession of rhino horns when they appeared before regional magistrate Collet Ncube who however, dismissed their application for discharge at the close of the State’s submissions.
Irked by Ncube’s determination, Chasakara then approached the High Court seeking a review of the magistrates’ decision and an order for stay of prosecution.
“Pending the finalisation of this matter, the applicants (seven suspects) be and are hereby granted the following relief; that the proceedings in CRB HWN 50-6/19 be and are hereby stayed pending the return date of the provisional order,” Justice Makonese ruled.
During the trial, the State represented by Martha Cheda and Memory Munsaka led evidence from police officers and investigators from the Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority.
Allegations against the seven are that on December 23, they were found, at their rented apartment in Victoria Falls, in possession of several pieces of rhinoceros horns weighing 20,98kg valued at $938 700. This was after police had received a tip-off and raided the house.
The search led to the recovery of plastic bags hidden under the bed containing both semi and processed rhino horns which had been cut into small pieces. Other pieces had been placed in a silver suitcase.
Detectives also recovered a portable digital scale.