Landmark Ruling in Kenya

A Chinese ivory smuggler, who pleaded guilty to trafficking ivory in Kenya, was yesterday fined 20 million Kenya Shillings (equivalent to US$232,000 / £138,000).  He will serve seven years in prison if he is unable to pay the fine.

The Kenyan magistrate refused to accept the suspect’s plea that he did not know carrying ivory was illegal.  The Chinese man was arrested two weeks ago while on transit from Mozambique with an elephant tusk weighing 3.4 kilograms in a travelling suitcase.

Born Free congratulates all those involved in bringing about this landmark ruling.  Tim Oloo, Manager of Born Free Kenya, said: “This sends a strong message to wildlife criminals and to all those who engage in illegal wildlife trade that such activities are not tolerated in Kenya, and that those involved will be brought to justice.”

Hours before the sentence was delivered, a second Chinese national was arrested at Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, while in transit from Republic of Congo to Guangzhou, China. He was found in possession of an assortment of ivory ornaments that included three ivory bracelets, ten pendants and two rectangular blocks of ivory. The suspect is due to be arraigned in court on smuggling charges.

This new level of sentencing has been made possible due to Kenya’s new wildlife law, which came into force on 10th January 2014.  The law states that dealing in illegal wildlife products carries a fine of not less than 1 million Kenya Shillings (US$11,500 / £7,000) or a minimum jail sentence of five years, or both. The most serious wildlife crimes, including killing endangered animals, now carry hefty penalties of life imprisonment, as well as fines of up to 20 million Kenya shillings. Previously, punishment for the most serious wildlife crimes was capped at a maximum of 40,000 Ksh (US$463 / £276) and a possible jail term of up to 10 years.

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