Notorious Chinese wildlife criminal syndicate member jailed for 14 years

A Chinese national, Yunhua Lin, has been sentenced to 14 years in prison for possession and trafficking of pieces of rhino horns worth millions of Malawian Kwacha.

He has also been sentenced to six years for money laundering in relation to the same pieces of rhino horn.

Yunhua Lin, convicted

Senior Resident Magistrate Florence Msekandiana pronounced the judgement on Tuesday in Lilongwe on behalf of High Court Judge, Justice Violet Chipao, who presided over the case when she was a Chief Resident Magistrate.

The judgement has also recommended that Lin be deported back to China immediately upon finishing his jail term in Malawi.

Lin is a member of one of Southern Africa’s most prolific wildlife trafficking syndicates, which has been operating out of Malawi for at least a decade.

He was found with horns of five rhinos from Malawian protected forest reserves. The horns were chopped into 103 pieces.

According to the judgement, Lin was given 14 years for possessing rhino horn, 14 years for rhino horn trafficking and six years for money laundering.

But the judgement said “the sentences will run concurrently from Lin’s arrest in August 2019”, hence the Chinese national “will serve 14 years in prison”.

The judgement stated that “the crimes committed by people like Lin inflict damage on Malawi’s global reputation, economy and tourism sector and lead to the extinction of the country’s endangered, protected and listed wildlife species”.

Lin’s sentencing brings to an end one of the most dragged court cases in Malawi in recent times.

The public, which keenly followed the case, waited for at least two years to see the successful prosecution, conviction and sentencing of Lin.

Principal State Prosecutor, Liness Chikankheni, promptly welcomed the judgement, saying “this is what they were expecting”.

Lin was arrested in August 2019 alongside a Malawian National, James Mkwezelemba, after a 3-month manhunt by the authorities.

So far, 13 other members of the syndicate (9 Chinese and 4 Malawian Nationals) have received prison sentences on a variety of offences related to the possession of firearms and protected or listed species, including pangolin, rhino horn, hippo teeth, or elephant ivory.

For instance, Lin’s wife, Mrs Zhang, is one of the convicts in question, and is currently serving an 11-year prison sentence.

And Lin Hui Xin – the daughter of Mr Lin and Mrs Zhang, and also married to a Mr Li Hao Yaun who is also serving 11 years for syndicate-related crimes–was arrested in December 2020 for alleged money laundering offences. Her trial is ongoing.

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