Tanzania’s High Court sends Chinese ‘Ivory Queen’ back to lower court

A Chinese business woman serving 15 years in jail for smuggling the tusks of more than 400 elephants, will remain in prison in Tanzania following a ruling by the High Court of Tanzania to send her case back to a lower court.

Yang Feng Glan (72) had appealed against the Kisutu Resident Magistrate’s court judgement which, in February 2019, convicted her of leading an organized crime syndicate trafficking 860 elephant tusks, worth more than $6 million. She and two Tanzanian accomplices were sentenced to at least 15 years in prison.

SAUTI KUBWA has learnt that the court had accepted there were anomalies in the original written judgment against Yang – famously known as ‘Ivory Queen’ – but declined her attorney’s application for her release.

It has been unfolding that the appeal at Tanzania’s High Court, Judge Edwin Kakolaki accepted a claim by Yang’s attorney that there were anomalies in the way the judgment was written. Kakolaki said the judgment most notably did not give the points of determination in the case.

Justice Kakolaki set aside the judgment of the Kisutu Resident Magistrate’s court on May 31, but declined an application to release her. Instead, he ordered the trial magistrate to return to court and deliver a fresh verdict.

Trial proceedings will not be heard again, and the directive at the appeal hearing is not expected to change the convictions or sentences.

Yang and her co-accused, Salvius Francis Matembo and Manase Julius Philemon, will have a chance to contest the appeal decision or begin a new appeal once the judgment is delivered again in the lower court.

Between 2009 and 2014, poachers reduced Tanzania’s elephant population by 60%, according to a government census. In response, Tanzania developed a strategy of intelligence-led investigations, including a specially-formed National Taskforce on Anti-Poaching (NTAP), to identify, arrest, and prosecute major players and so disrupt wildlife trafficking networks. It has also strengthened wildlife laws and sentences.

The Ivory Queen who was arrested in September 2015 and convicted in February 2019, she was once the Secretary-General of the Tanzania China-Africa Business Council.

Yang Glan