Supreme Court grants Chinese “wildlife crime kingpin” permission to appeal 14-year prison sentence

Supreme Court grants Chinese “wildlife crime kingpin” permission to appeal 14-year prison sentence
Supreme Court grants Chinese “wildlife crime kingpin” permission to appeal 14-year prison sentence

Africa-Press – Malawi. Judge of the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal, Justice Lovemore Chikopa, has finally granted Chinese national Lin Yun Hua leave to appeal against his 14-year prison sentence and permission to appeal out of time.

The judge has, therefore, ordered Lin to file his notice for appeal in the High Court of Malawi within 21 days, from 15th March, 2024.

Lin, a “wildlife crime kingpin”, sought the intervention of the Supreme Court, after the High Court declined his appeal application in December 2022 and May and October 2023, saying “he had filed the application after the period allocated for appeals had long elapsed”.

But Justice Chikopa, sitting in Blantyre, rejected Lin’s application for bail pending appeal.

Lin, the leader of a notorious Chinese gang illegally trading in wildlife products, was arrested in August 2019 for trading in Rhino horn and money laundering, among other wildlife crimes.

Consequently, the Lilongwe Chief Resident Magistrate Court convicted and sentenced Lin to 15 years imprisonment in September 2021. His lawyers did not appeal within the time allocated for appeals, though he reportedly gave them instructions.

However, in his ruling, Justice Chikopa observed, among other things, that “the law allows granting of an extension within which to appeal only where there is good cause to do so and the interests of justice so dictate”.

He said Lin “has the constitutional right to appeal and must, therefore, advance good enough reasons why they could not appeal within time and that it is in the interest of justice that the time to appeal be extended”.

On denying Lin bail pending appeal, the judge agreed with state prosecutors that the applicant “is a convict, a foreigner who is a flight risk and one who has already been able to wrongly influence prison procedure to his advantage”, among others.

Meanwhile, state prosecutors gave mixed reactions on the ruling by the Supreme Court.

Matthews Chione, Senior State Advocate, said: “We are happy that the bail pending appeal was not granted. We are disappointed on giving him the leave to appeal after such a long time, and when the High Court already turned him down on the same ground of late appeal”.

Another prosecutor, Hannah Supply-Kamange, said: “The outcome is clearly not the one that the state anticipated or hoped for, with the exception of the ruling on the bail aspect, given the strength of the state’s arguments. All in all, the state is ready for the next steps”.

Lin was found in possession of horns of five Rhinos chopped into 103 pieces. He was also charged with money laundering, among other changes.

In early 2023, an investigation by the Platform for Investigative Journalism revealed that Lin had been allowed to leave prison, spend days at his home, conduct his business and go on shopping sprees in the company of prison guards. He wore plain clothes and was not handcuffed.

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