Club of Mozambique
Ivory traffickers skip bail, fail to appear in trial – Mozambique
File photo: Notícias
Six people accused of trafficking in ivory, precious stones, mercury and explosive devices skipped bail and failed to show up on Monday for their trial in the Sofala Provincial Court in the central Mozambican city of Beira.
According to a report in Tuesday’s issue of the independent newssheet “Mediafax” their lawyer also did not attend the court. The court received no explanation for their absence, and will now issue a second notification, summoning them to appear. If the six still fail to appear, the court can issue a warrant for their re-arrest.
The six men were caught red-handed in September 2017 by wardens of the Gorongosa National Park. They were found in the park’s buffer zone, in Cheringoma district, in possession of two elephant tusks, an unspecified quantity of game meat from poached animals, precious stones and flasks containing mercury.
Mercury is used by artisanal miners in their illegal operations to extract gold, precious stones and other minerals. It is a highly toxic heavy metal and can have devastating effects on the environment.
According to a press release issued at the time by Gorongosa National Park, the traffickers attempted to bribe the wardens, without success.
Their cell phones were seized and on them were found messages concerning trafficking in explosive devices.
Within a matter of days, the six were set free after paying bail which varied between 40,000 and 50,000 meticais (between 667 and 833 US dollars). This is very modest amount of bail for serious offences.
Under a law passed last year on the protection of Mozambican biodiversity, trafficking in ivory is punished by a prison term of between 12 and 16 years, plus a heavy fine.
The six men caught in Cheringoma are believed to be low-level operative sin a poaching ring. They might well be able to identify the criminals in charge of the poaching and illegal mining, and no doubt this is why bail was paid so quickly, and why the men did not appear in court.