Chadiza Subordinate Court judge, Fred Musaka has sentenced three Chinese nationals and two Zambians to five years imprisonment each after finding them guilty of ‘illegal possession’ of 25 rhino horns weighing approximately 32 kilogrammes.

The three Chinese nationals, Hung Qingzhou, He Qingmao and Wan Qin together with the two Zambians, Lovemore Kamwendo and Obert Simwajata were arrested on 27th July this year at Chanida border near Chadiza District by a joint team of government security investigators. They were all in detention after being charged with possession of prescribed trophy.

The five made their first appearance before Chadiza Magistrate Musaka in Eastern Province on Tuesday August 8, 2017, but pleaded not guilty.

Their lawyer Chansa Mulenga Kapatamoyo had repeatedly applied for bail but Magistrate Musaka threw out the application on grounds that the three Chinese did not give exact addresses of their residence. The Chinese told the court that they were residents of Beira in Mozambique, while their Zambian counterparts – Kamwendo, a driver and Simwajata said they resided in Chelstone and Ng’ombe township in Lusaka respectively.

Their second court appearance was on Thursday August 10, after lawyer Kapatamoyo applied for a review of the bail application.

Magistrate Musaka again refused to grant them bail saying the applicants were a flight risk.

Ministry of Tourism and Arts Public Relations Officer Sakabilo Kalembwe who confirmed the arrest of the five in a statement and said they were nabbed at Chanida – a border post that links Zambia to Mozambique.

Under the Zambian Wildlife Act no. 14 of 2015 the suspects, anyone found guilty can be sentenced to five to ten years imprisonment for possession of prescribed trophy. The sentence can increase to 7-10 years, if trafficking can be proved in the courts of law.