Four years ago, the High Court fined the Kaunda brothers just $5500 for their part in the trafficking of 2.6 tonnes of ivory – one of the world’s largest ivory seizures that represented the deaths of nearly 400 elephants. The judgment was met with widespread criticism and prompted calls to strengthen Malawi’s response to serious wildlife crime.
This week, the Supreme Court of Appeal overturned the ruling and set a legal precedent that will be followed by every Magistrate and High Court judge across the country: that ivory trafficking is a serious crime and warrants imprisonment. What’s more, the eight-year jail term passed is based on legislation at the time of arrest when maximum sentences stood at ten years. This has since been increased to thirty years with no option of a fine.
Congratulations to all involved – a landmark battle won in the war against illegal wildlife trade.
Read the Government’s release.
LANDMARK RULING IN MZUZU IVORY CASE HAILED A VICTORY FOR WILDLIFE
A ruling by the Supreme Court on the now infamous ‘Mzuzu case’ has been lauded as a national victory for wildlife conservation. Patrick and Chancy Kaunda had their $5500 fine overturned on Monday 15th July and were instead sentenced to eight years in prison for their role in the trafficking of 2.6 tonnes of ivory. The brothers did not appear in Court, but the Court ordered that they should be taken into custody to serve their sentence.
The Kaunda brothers were first apprehended in 2013 when the Malawi Revenue Authority intercepted a truck, in the district of Rumphi en-route to Lilongwe from Tanzania, in which 781 pieces of raw ivory tusks were found concealed amongst bags of cement. This represents the death of almost 400 elephants. They pleaded guilty to charges of ivory trafficking and money laundering and were fined MK2.5 million ($5,500) each by the High Court.
The Lower Court Judgement was not satisfactory to the Law Enforcement Agencies, taking into consideration the magnitude of the seizure. As such a decision was made to have the case appealed so that the Judgement could be reviewed by the Supreme Court.
Mr Brighton Kumchedwa, Director for the Department of National Parks & Wildlife, said, “I would like to take this opportunity to thank our colleagues in the Department of Public Prosecutions for their commitment to this landmark case. Illegal wildlife trade threatens our most iconic species with extinction, and it is critical that wildlife criminals can expect to feel the full weight of the law. This is indeed another victory for the Government, and a victory for wildlife.”
Tione-Atate Namanja, Senior Assistant Chief State Advocate in the Directorate of Public Prosecutions, said, “This judgment was close to the maximum sentence based on legislation before the Wildlife Act in 2016 came into force,. The new Act provides for penalties of up to 30 years in prison with no option of a fine for wildlife crimes. This judgement sets an important legal precedent that will influence wildlife crime prosecutions going forward. It is also commendable for the Court to find convictions based on multiple laws”