LILONGWE-(MaraviPost)– Malawi Police at Lilongwe Kamuzu International Airport (KIA) on Wednesday, arrested a thirty-four year Gambian man for allegedly being connected to the seized 330 kilogram of ivory in Thailand in March this year.
The suspect Mady Conteh is also the seventh person to be arrested in connection with the matter as he was also on the Interpol Red Notice List for crimes against the environment.
According to sources privy to insistence, the ivory in question is equivalent to over 200 elephants. The suspect had been shipping the ivory on an Ethiopian Airways flight from KIA, Lilongwe, via Addis Ababa to Bangkok and was later arrested by Thai authorities as he went to collect the packages.
The development has excited the police, department of National Parks and Wild Life, and local and international organizations such as the Lilongwe Wildlife Trust, Wildcat Foundation, and the Olsen Animal Trust. These have advocate agendas for prevention of wildlife crimes.
“This case illustrates Malawi’s position as a regional trafficking hub for illicit wildlife trade, but it also shows that these international syndicates can no longer operate here with impunity.
“The authorities are taking wildlife crimes seriously, and perpetrators can expect to be caught and prosecuted with the full weight of the law,” Tommy Mhango of Lilongwe Wildlife Trust said.
Media reports disclose that between 2010 and 2015, rates of arrests in Malawi were less than one per month, and convictions carried an average sentence of just US$40.
However, new initiatives introduced to tackle poor law enforcement, lack of awareness, and weak legislation, are said to have tipped the balance in favor of the authorities.
Last year, monthly arrests increased by 11 percent and average sentences moved to 4 years in prison with no option of a fine.
The new Wildlife Act, passed in February this year, increased maximum sentences to 30 years behind bars and further deters wildlife criminals from operating within Malawi’s borders.