Published in www.nyasatimes.com on 30th September 2015
Axin Shang, 25, was caught last week with an elephant ivory tusk in a suitcase at Kamuzu International Airport.
If he is unable to pay the fine he will spend two years in prison.
Levison Mangani, the Central Region assistant commissioner of police responsible for prosecution, told the court the offense was discovered on September 16 when officers from Kamuzu International Airport were screening goods at Air Cargo.
Shang, who appeared before Senior Resident Magistrate Chisomo Msokera, admitted to have attempted to ship out the ivory and that he was not aware that it is an offence against the country’s laws.
But Magistrate Msokera observed it was not “agreeable for the accused to claim that he was not aware that it was an offence.”
The trade in ivory is criminalised in Malawi but there has been a rise in the illegal practice in recent years.
There is a huge demand for ivory in Asia for use in ornaments, while conservationists suspect that most of the poached rhino horn is destined for traditional medicine market in South East Asia, where it is believed to contain powerful healing properties, despite there being no scientific proof of this.
The Magistrate also ordered the Ministry of Home Affairs and Internal Security to deport the Chinese him and seize the 50kg of 3,000 cubes of ivory he was found with.
In his ruling, Magistrate Msokera commented that the language of the National Parks and Wildlife Act is ambiguous and recommended that Parliament “consider reviewing the punishment provisions in the Act.”
Lilongwe Wildlife Trust Manager Jonathan Vaughan, a campaigner against the illicit ivory trade, welcomed the ruling as the maximum fine. But he lamented that the existing legal framework for penalties has a lot of limitations.