Seven Chinese nationals who were arrested for possessing more than 20kg of rhino horn pieces with a combined value of close to $1 million face new charges after police opened fresh charges of money laundering and theft of a motor vehicle.
Zeng Dengui (35), Peicon Jang (35), Liu Cheng (23), Yu Xian (25), Yong Zhu (25), Chen Zhiangfu (30) and Qui Jinchang (29) were arrested on December 23 and charged with contravening Section 45(1) (b) of the Parks and Wildlife Act Chapter 20:14 as read with Section 128(b) of the same Act. The sections criminalise keeping, possessing, selling or disposing of any live specially protected animal, meat or trophy of any such animal.
Trial was supposed to kick off yesterday but prosecutor Mr Bhekimpilo Tshabalala said the State had deferred the date because police had indicated intention to press new charges. The new charges have not been taken to court and no details were given. Tshabalala said the docket was sent to Hwange because the Victoria Falls magistrate court has no jurisdiction to try matters of such magnitude. In response, defence lawyer Mr Givemore Mvhiringi of Mvhiringi and Associates said his clients have a constitutional right to be tried within a reasonable time. He accused the State of abusing the court by delaying trial when a date had already been set. Victoria Falls magistrate Ms Rangarirai Gakanje agreed with the defence point of view. She ordered prosecution to provide trial date on Wednesday next week. A determination will be made whether the case will be transferred to Hwange for trial or not.