Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Chinese man pleads guilty to smuggling 14 rhino horns out of Namibia

ONE of the Chinese men accused of attempting to smuggle 14 rhino horns out of Namibia nearly six months ago has offered to plead guilty to the charges that he and two co-accused are facing. Public prosecutor Eric Naikaku told Magistrate Alpha Haihambo in the Windhoek Magistrate's Court in Katutura yesterday that Li Zhibing (53) has tendered to plead guilty in the case in which he and two fellow Chinese citizens, Pu Xunin (49) and Li Xiaoliang (30), are charged with the possession and export of controlled wildlife products. -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
THE ACCUSED CHINESE CITIZENS: LI XIALONG (OBSTRUCTED), LI ZHIBING AND PU XUEXIN. LIN ZHIBING HAS PLEADED GULITY TO ALL THE CHARGES HE FACES, WHICH ARE THE SAME AS THOSE FACED BY HIS ACCOMPLICES. THEY HAVE PLEADED NOT GUILTY. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- The State was not ready to accept the plea of guilty offered by the accused, though, and he also received instructions to add a new charge to the two counts already faced by the three men, Naikaku said. He said it would take about three to four weeks for the police to get further witness statements in the case, and asked the magistrate to postpone the three men's case for further investigations to be carried out. On a request from defence lawyer Orben Sibeya the magistrate ordered that the further postponement, to 9 October, would be a final remand of the case for further investigations to be done. The three men were arrested and charged with possessing and exporting controlled wildlife products after 14 rhino horns and a leopard skin were found in two suitcases that Li Zhibing and Li Xiaoliang had checked in as part of their luggage on a flight with which they were supposed to leave Namibia on 24 March. The three accused claimed during a bail hearing in May that they did not know what was in the suitcases. Li Zhibing claimed that a Chinese citizen living in Zambia had asked him to take the suitcases with him to China. He said he was promised US$3 000 as payment if he delivered the suitcases to someone in Shanghai. He also told the court that he had asked Li Xiaoliang to book one of the suitcases in as part of his luggage. Pu denied having any involvement with or knowledge of the suitcases. A senior police officer testified during the bail hearing that closed-circuit television footage, recorded at the hotel where the three men stayed in Windhoek the night before they tried to take a flight out of Namibia, showed that the two suitcases in which the rhino horns were found had been kept in Pu's hotel room before it was moved to the room of the two Lis. The officer also told the court that DNA tests done in South Africa confirmed that the rhino horns found in the two suitcases were of Namibian origin. Li Xiaoliang testified that he first visited Namibia as a tourist in October last year. He was paying a second visit to Namibia as a tourist when he was arrested in March, he said. Li Zhibing's version during the bail hearing was that he was visiting Namibia to look for construction work, while Pu said he had travelled to Namibia for a holiday and to explore business opportunities. The three men travelled together from Beijing to Lusaka in Zambia two weeks before their arrest and entered Namibia at a border post in the Zambezi region on 12 March, the court was also informed during the bail hearing. The three accused remain in custody after their request to be granted bail was turned down. Source: Namibian

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