By Leonard Ncube
The trial of seven Chinese nationals accused of illegally possessing more than 20kg of rhino horn pieces with an estimated value of close to $1 million has started at the Hwange Regional court.
Zeng Dengui (35), Peicon Jang (35), Liu Cheng (23), Yu Xian (25), Yong Zhu (25), Chen Zhiangfu (30) and Qui Jinchang (29) have been in custody since their arrest on December 23.
The seven pleaded not guilty to charges of money laundering and possession of ivory when the trial started last week.
Their lawyer Mr Givemore Mvhiringi of Mvhiringi and Associates indicated he would be submitting a written application for discharge at the close of the State’s case, when the trial continues today.
Mr Mvhiringi argued that the State led by senior prosecutor, Mrs Martha Cheda, had failed to prove to court that his clients had a case to answer when trial kicked off last week.
The prosecution led evidence from police and Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority investigators before closing the State’s case.
Regional magistrate Mr Collet Ncube is expected to rule on the application for discharge today, which will determine whether the accused are put to their defence or not.
Allegations against the seven are that on December 23, they were found in possession of several pieces of rhino horns weighing 20,98kg and valued at $938 700 at house number 858 Aerodrome suburb in Victoria Falls where they were renting.
The house belongs to a taxidermist who operates a wildlife trophy shop.
Police allegedly received a tip-off and raided the house after obtaining a search warrant from court.
They recovered several pieces of rhino horns weighing 20,98kg in a bedroom used by one of the accused.
A digital scale was also recovered.The Chronicle