Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Uganda Wildlife Authority-UWA has expressed reservations about the release of two Vietnamese nationals accused of wildlife trafficking, saying it might affect investigations since their co-accused are still at large.
They are Nguyen Son Dong, the Director of Wisdom Theta Limited and Pham Van Chieu, both residents of Ntinda, a Kampala Suburb. They appeared before the Anti-Corruption Court Grade one Magistrate Sarah Namusobya Mutebi on Thursday this week, charged with being found with exhibits worth sh13 billion, and were granted cash bail of Sh15 million each.
They were discharged by court on Friday after paying the bail fees. Those at large are Dinh Van Chung, Vo Quoc Trinh, Dinh Van Quan and Thai Xuan Phuong. UWA Spokesperson, Bashir Hangi told URN that they are worried that the suspects might jeopardize investigations.
He says they want the suspects to explain where they got the wildlife species from and disclose their co-accused. According to Hangi, UWA will charge the accused persons in the Wildlife and Antiquities Court with illegal possession of wildlife species contrary to Section 30 of the UWA Act
He notes that while the office of the Director of Public Prosecution alleges that the Ivory and Pangolin scales recovered from the suspects originated from another country, he says UWA is yet to ascertain the claim. He however, noted that whether or not the Ivory and Pangolin originated from Uganda, the country shouldn’t be used for trafficking, adding that each wildlife should be conserved irrespective of its origin.
Details of the case
The accused persons were intercepted by security officers attached to Uganda Revenue Authority at Namboole on January 24th, 2019. Prosecution contends that the accused were found in possession of 262 pieces of ivory weighing 3,299 Kilograms valued at Shillings 8.7 billion and Pangolin Scales weighing 423.7 kilograms worth Shillings 4.7 billion.
The ivory and pangolin scales were found in nine molds of paraffin wax inside nine wooden cases disguised as logs. UWA is conducted DNA analysis to establish the source of the ivory and pangolin scales. In 2018, 1,600 people were arrested for illegal poaching, 90 percent were successfully prosecuted.
According to Uganda Conservation Foundation, Pangolins are the most trafficked mammals in the world and have since 2014 been classified as threatened with extinction by the International Union of Conservation of Nature-IUCN. Pangolin scales are used for making bullet proof materials and medicine for various ailments.
Uganda Conservation Foundation notes that “the trade is driven by demand in Asia, notably China, and Vietnam, where pangolin meat is consumed as a delicacy and for social status and scales are used in traditional Chinese medicine. African pangolins are being targeted for intercontinental trade to Asian markets.”