Thu Oct 27, 2016 10:27 am
Thu Oct 27, 2016 11:57 am
Tue Nov 01, 2016 9:17 pm
Update on case number IRC176/16 – defendant Lingyun Cheng – arrested on the 23rd September 2016 at OR Tambo airport, in possession of three Rhino Horn.
Proceedings started after 10h30 with the state reading the charges. The defendant pleaded guilty to all charges. The defense attorney read the defendants statement into the records and stated the defendant pleaded guilty on his advise.
Unfortunately there was a clamp down on cell phones and all cell phones had to be powered off not just on silent which stopped blow by blow accounts of the case.
The state called two witnesses in support of harsh rather than lenient sentencing. The carcasses of three rhino cows with the horns removed were in close proximity to each other and a young calf was found alive. The three cows had all be shot with a .375 rifle. The calf was taken into care and is currently still alive. There were two poaching s very close to each other but the three horn found in possession of Cheng were positively linked to the three cows. The second crime scene is still an open case. Both scenes are very close to the Swaziland border. Of the six horn only three have been recovered. They were recovered in Cheng's luggage, wrapped in carbon paper, tin foil and finally with gift wrap.Photo evidence was handed to the court of the baggage, boxes and the horn.
There is an uncontrolled border post that can be crossed without a passport which is a major headache for law enforcement of wildlife crime. (I presume any crime)
A presentation was then given going back to CITES, Trade ban and the rise of rhino poaching. The presentation included stats of poached rhinos as well as how it is not just the killed rhino – but the impact the loss of mature, breeding rhino, has on the survival of the species. How the cost of horn increases once the destination is reach.
The different levels from poacher to consumer was explained and the defendant is looked at as a level three on the pyramid.
Very few questions were asked by the defense. He queried the cost and the weight of horn.
In closing the defense lawyer stated his client was aware it was wrong to carry the horn but was unaware of how serious a problem poaching horn was. He stated that not being South African he had no idea of the severity of the problem. The defense then went on to state the rhino had not been slaughtered as they had been shot which is better than being slaughtered. He also stated that Cheng was visiting a friend in Swaziland, who was going to take the horn out himself, but as Cheng was flying out a day Earlier he paid Cheng R20000 to take the horn with him. Cheng had a visor for Swaziland until the 27th but changed it to leave on the 23rd.
He then requested no jail time but rather a heavy fine of which part could be suspended. He said that the fine would be paid by Cheng's friend/syndicate which meant the “more” guilty party ultimately paid the price for the crime. The defendant is divorced with no children but does have a girlfriend. He has no previous record and prison sentences are not always the correct sentence. He also mentioned John Hume having won twice in his case for lifting the local ban on trade in horn. It was mentioned that from day one the defendant wanted to plead guilty and had and is co-operative and is willing to assist the police with information on the other people involved.
The state countered with the fact he was a level three on the pyramid scale and deserves a direct prison sentence. Various cases were put forward in support of this. She also argued the point that whether they were slaughtered or not many animals lovers considered it murder irrespective of how the creature is killed. She pointed out that importing and exporting of horn is an international crime as it is banned by cites and therefore irrespective of the outcome of lifting the local ban the defendant was still guilty as charged as he was carrying horn out of the country when there is an international ban in place. She pushed the point that poaching was out of control and the courts must treat it for the serious crime it is and let people know harsh sentences will be metered out to guilty parties.
Court was adjourned at 1545. Will reconvene at 14H00 tomorrow (2nd November) for sentencing.
Wed Nov 02, 2016 8:17 pm
R800000.00 fine or 6 years imprisonment
My take on the sentencing today. Please let me stress these are purely and simple my personal opinions on the matter.
Firstly I have the utmost respect for Mr Manyati the magistrate at the regional court in Kempton Park. When addressing the court on the facts of the case, one thing became very, very clear - our laws are not harsh enough. He brought up previous cases when the maximum sentence had been given and in each and every case it had been reduced on appeal. The other issue is the transport/mule,courier or whatever you want to call them seem to get a lighter sentence than the poacher. In my opinion it seems to me that the regional courts (and Mr Manyati in particular ) recognize just how serious the rhino crimes are - but the higher courts are not backing them when they hand down justice - resulting in the magistrates not giving the harshest sentence allowable by law as they know full well the sentence will be reduced by higher courts. Must be very soul destroying for the legal people who understand and respect the seriousness of the crime. I am not a legal person - this is my observation of being a very ordinary street joe. I feel that the sentences for the "mules" should be jail sentences without the option of a fine. In some cases they may be a normal everyday person tempted by large sums of money in other cases they may be regulars. If sentences were harsh enough to make these "mules" think twice about accepting (as in this case) R20000 or whatever there entry payment would be it would at least stop a lot of the horn reaching the end consumer. I know and understand this is not a solution but I believe it would go a long way in making the seller, poacher back off a bit. Fines are all well and good but are no deterrent when you are dealing in the high value of the product. The ultimate solution would be able to cut the head off the snake - but we all know that is purely a pipe dream (currently). In a perfect world there would be no demand - but that is as likely to happen as tripping over the Easter Bunny so the next step is to reduce demand through education and where horn is illegal have harsh sentences for the end consumer - if caught and convicted
Wed Nov 02, 2016 8:30 pm
Thanks for this, Moggie!
Wed Nov 02, 2016 9:02 pm
The laws are always far behind, especially when it come to new kinds of crimes
Thu Nov 03, 2016 9:41 am
Thu Nov 03, 2016 2:10 pm
Quick update - as of now the fine has not yet been paid. Prosecutor will be contacting me if/when it gets paid.
Thu Nov 03, 2016 5:56 pm
It is quite a bloody cheek to own up and suggest a fine paid by your syndicate, for whom it will be pocket money. Sort of like bargaining at a market!
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