Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The 37 Chinese facing charges of unlawful possession of wildlife and trading without licenses in Uganda have agreed with the state to pay 180 million shillings for the charges to be dropped.
They will also pay about 5.5 million shillings in the dollar currency to the government of Uganda to acquire a user right permission.
The plea bargaining session between the two parties was concluded on Thursday and later endorsed by Buganda Road Chief Magistrates Court.
Jamil Mujurizi, the lawyer representing the Chinese and the State Attorney Ivan Kyazze agreed that the accused persons pay the money and gain their freedom without spending more time in jail where they have been since March.
The group opted for plea bargaining after failing to get Ugandan sureties.
Previously, the state had proposed a fine of 500 million shillings but the Defense objected citing that it was excessive and unreasonable.
According to Section 75 of the Wildlife Act, a person found with a protected wildlife species is liable to a fine of not less than one million shillings or imprisonment for a term of not more than five years or to both.
The prosecution alleges that on March 19, 2020, the Chinese were found transacting the business of phone and computer scrap dealings without trading licenses. The offences were reportedly committed in Kireka, Kira Municipality in Wakiso district.
On the same day, the group was reportedly found disassembling several mobile phones and computers for trading purposes without a trading license.
The State also alleges that the Chinese were found with the suspected stolen property such as computer motherboards, phones and electricity meters.
They were also reportedly found in illegal possession of protected wildlife species including six tortoises and pangolin shells.
The Chinese were also found in possession of 1,895 Airtel and 223 MTN sim cards registered in Ugandan names which were reportedly used for “We Chat”, an online platform for messaging and financial transactions. These offences were committed between October 2019 and March 2020.