Outgoing United States of America Ambassador Robert Scott has applauded Malawi’s justice system for a crackdown against an international ring of wildlife traffickers.
Speaking in an interview yesterday on the last day of his two-year tour of duty in Lilongwe, he said the manner in which Malawi is handling wildlife cases has put the country on the map such that many are willing to learn from it.
Scott said: “Malawians should be extremely proud with the way the country is fighting wildlife crimes. In too many instances, when a kingpin as you said Mr. [Yun Hua] Lin is arrested in Africa and around the world, they will skip their responsibility. They are arrested, something happens and they are out of the country.”
He said the world is faced with the same problem of wildlife trafficking and in many parts it is difficult to apprehend suspects with an international connection without having them slip off the hands of justice.
His sentiments come against a background of the conviction last month of 10 Chinese nationals for wildlife-related offences.
Among those successfully prosecuted and imprisoned in Malawi are Yun Hua Lin, 46, who authorities have described as “the most wanted person” and believed to be a ring leader of an international wildlife trafficking network.
Lin’s arrest in 2019, after months of manhunt, was considered a breakthrough and the US government was among those that congratulated the law enforcing agencies for his conviction.
While there was scepticism on the future of Lin’s case, a few weeks ago he was handed a 14-year jail sentence and he has joined his other family members, notably his wife and daughter who are serving jail terms of over 11 years for wildlife-related crimes.
During the interview, Scott also heaped praises on Nation Publications Limited (NPL), publishers of The Nation, Weekend Nation, Nation on Sunday, Fuko and Nation Online, for its investigative story in 2019.
The publications exposed the extent of wildlife trafficking involving foreign nationals in Malawi.
Our sister newspaper Nation on Sunday carried the story which detailed the wildlife syndicate in the country and how law enforcing agencies busted the same, leading to the arrest of Lin and team.
Scott said he has been receiving calls from fellow diplomats across the world thanking Malawi for its determined fight against wildlife crimes.
Records from the Department of National Parks and Wildlife show that since 2018, 194 people have been arrested and convicted for wildlife crimes.
Out of this number 20 are Chinese of whom 10 have been convicted.
With funding from the US government, Malawi has also been able to establish its first Wildlife Detection Dog Unit in August 2018.
The unit is stationed at Kamuzu International Airport and helps detect wildlife products. The US support to Malawi’s wildlife protection has totalled over K26 billion for the past seven years.
Read Scott’s full interview this Saturday in Weekend Nation.