Written by George Singini
Two brothers will pay K5 million ($10,000) between then or in default serve seven years in prison for being caught with 2.6 tonnes of ivory which compelled President Peter Mutharika to postpone the burning of a $7.5 million (about K3.8 billion) stash in April.
The High Court in Mzuzu fined Patrick and Chancy Kaunda K5 million ($10,000) on Tuesday after finding them guilty of money laundering and possessing ivory.
The Kaundas were apprehended by Malawi Revenue Authority officials after being found transporting 781 pieces of ivory that they hid under cement bags to beat security checks.
Senior State advocate Neverson Chisiza earlier asked the High Court to hand them K4.5 billion fine and 18 years custodial sentence to deter would-be offenders and show Malawi’s commitment towards the fight against ivory trade.
Chisiza called on the court to also forfeit to government the truck that was used to transport the ivory and the forex the two were found with.
However, Justice Dingiswayo Madise on Tuesday differed with the State, saying giving such stiffer penalties would be a mockery of justice and would also put the court into disrepute. He said courts have to give fine lines in line with people’s income.
The judge said fines should not be traps to send people to prison. He said first offenders deserve to be given fines in situations where there is an option for a fine and sentence.
He said the sentence should come after the convicts have failed to pay the fine. Madise added that there was need for the court to consider that the two were first offenders, they pleaded guilty and that they did not benefit from the trade.
The judge also quashed the State’s plea to have the forex the two were found with and the truck forfeited to government. However he ordered the forfeiture of the 781 pieces of ivory to government.
The ivory will have to be destroyed in the presence of the judiciary, public, police and parks and wildlife department.