12:09 pm
25 October 2016

Kenya’s ‘ivory kingpin’ gets bail

Mombasa (Kenya) (AFP) – A court in Kenya on Friday granted bail to the suspected ringleader of an ivory smuggling gang, but government prosecutors said they would appeal.

Kenyan national Feisal Mohammed Ali, who figured on an Interpol list of the nine most wanted suspects linked to crimes against the environment, was arrested by international police agents in Tanzania in December after fleeing Kenya and was extradited to face charges in the port city of Mombasa.

In March, bail was granted on medical grounds, but Kenya’s Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (OPDD) appealed that decision at the High Court. The OPDD said Friday they would appeal the latest ruling.

Magistrate Davis Karani on Friday however granted Ali a 10 million shilling ($96,900/85,800 euro) bond in a court in Mombasa. He is understood to remain in custody Friday afternoon, while his family raised the cash.

Paula Kahumbu, chief executive of conservation organisation Wildlife Direct, said the bail order was “shocking, disappointing, amazing.”

Ali is charged with possession of and dealing in elephant tusks weighing more than two tonnes — equivalent to at least 114 slaughtered elephants and worth an estimated $4.5 million (4.2 million euros).

Prosecutors allege he is a key player in the organised crime network stretching from African parks to Asian markets, where demand for ivory is high. He has denied all charges.

The haul was discovered by Kenyan police in June 2014 when they raided a car dealership in Mombasa, after which Ali fled to Tanzania.

Save the Elephants estimates an average of 33,000 elephants have been lost across Africa to poachers each year between 2010 and 2012.

A recent five-year study of wildlife cases before Kenyan courts, carried out by Wildlife Direct and published in 2014, found that only seven percent of those convicted of offences against elephants and rhinos actually went to jail, despite the crimes carrying a maximum 10-year sentence.

Experts say that international criminal gangs control the trade, pushing Africa’s elephants towards extinction. A joint UN Environment Programme and Interpol study in 2013 said the illegal trade in African ivory is worth up to $188 million.