FIRST CHINESE BLOOD IVORY KINGPIN ARRESTED IN DAR ES SALAAM
(Posted 08th October 2015)
A Chinese citizen who lived in Tanzania for at least the last 16 years, was arrested earlier in the week by a special task force and charged in the Kisutu Magistrate’s court together with two Tanzanian accomplices, accused to have been responsible for trafficking of blood ivory worth at least 5.4 billion Tanzania Shillings. Evidence appears to link her to at least 700 blood ivory tusks but regular sources immediately suggested that the true extent of her involvement in the illegal ivory trade, which saw in recent years tens of thousands of elephant slaughtered, might be considerably greater.
Miss Yang Fen Glan was reportedly not required to take plea as the case will eventually be heard at a higher court. She was kept in remand until next Monday when the case comes up for mention. The prosecution cited her escape from police custody when detained earlier in the year but was eventually re-arrested and quoted as a flight risk if granted bail.
The prosecution alleges that she committed a wide range of offenses between January 2000 and May 2015, among them her complicity in illegal ivory trade, export, financing of poaching and related crimes. She reportedly first came to Tanzania in the 1970’s and has since then been in and out of the country. Following her arrest she was immediately dubbed as ‘Queen of Ivory’ by the local media in Tanzania.
(File photo of Yang Fan Glan)
It is understood that the accused has been placed under special watch to both prevent any potential escape plot but also to avoid that she can be reached by other kingpins and individuals thought high up in government she might expose in court, hoping for leniency when it comes to sentencing.
Another Chinese woman was arraigned in court last week, when a Miss Li Ling together with local accomplices was charged over the illegal export of ivory on a Swiss airlines flight to Zurich as was reported here a few months ago.
The case is seen as a breakthrough to penetrate the blood ivory cartel which has been operating with near impunity in Tanzania while the government stood by for years, first denying and then belittling the poaching crisis before, when exposed in the global media, grudgingly admitting that the problem had gotten out of hand.
In the Selous alone, according to more recent game counts, were over 50.000 elephant lost to poaching and in the Ruaha ecosystem were elephant numbers decimated to a mere one third of the former population.
Across Africa is it primarily Chinese citizens who are caught at airports and sea ports with blood ivory, smearing the country’s name, while the Chinese administration at home has until very recently done very little to credibly stem the exploding demand for ivory products from their nouvelle rich clique. Stunned by the global sentiment, which raised more outrage than other open political issues like human rights or the Tibet question, among others, did the Chinese government eventually begin the take the global outrage more seriously and has began to stem the importation of ivory in cooperation with other Western nations like the US.
Yang Fen’s case will be closely watched in the region and around the globe to see if the judiciary is up to the task and immune to bribes which in the past were the main obstacle to having suspects arrested, arraigned, prosecuted and jailed.
In a related development was it learned that the accused was recently also in Uganda to where she had reportedly escaped following an earlier attempt to arrest her but was on her return spotted and arrested. She, according to information received from a source in Dar es Salaam, owns a large Chinese restaurant and is also a senior figure in the Tanzania – China Business Council, where her arrest has caused acute embarrassment and cause for concern who will be next on the special task force arrest list from among the individuals she habitually did business and interacted with.