By Kevin Heath
The bail hearing of the 3 Chinese caught trying to smuggle 14 rhino horns out of Namibia has heard that the horns originated from the country. DNA testing has shown that all the horns seem to originate from rhino killed in the country. A microchip found in one of the horns showed that it belonged to a rhino that had been translocated from South Africa to Namibia several years ago.
On the first day of the bail hearing the court heard that Li Xiao Liang (30), Li Zhi Bing (53) and Pu Xu Nin (49), had been caught at Hosea Kutako International Airport. The 14 rhino horns had been wrapped in tin foil and hidden in 2 suitcases carried by Li Xiao Liang and Li Zhi Bing. The horns were discovered as the cases went through security scanners.
At the time Pu Xu Nin had claimed that he had nothing to do with the suitcases and did not know the other men.
CCTV footage from the hotel where all three stayed showed that the two suitcases had been delivered to Pu and they spent about an hour in his room. Pu and an accomplice then took the suitcases to Li Xiao’s and Li Zhi’s room.
The bail court also heard from Detective Chief Inspector Barry de Klerk who said that samples of the rhino horn had been sent for testing in South Africa. The DNA profiles were then compared to the Rhino DNA Index System (RhODIS) database – it confirmed that all the horns came from rhino in Namibia.
The three have been charged with processing and exporting controlled wildlife products – 14 rhino horn and a leopard skin – that was found in their luggage.
Li Zhi Bing claimed that he was asked by a Chinese national in Zambia to take the two suitcases to Shanghai in exchange for $3,000 and he then asked Li Xiao Liang to take one of the suitcases as part of his luggage allowance.
All three claim that they did not know what was in the suitcases and have asked for bail until the court case is heard.
The bail hearing in front of Magistrate George Mbundu at Windhoek Magistrate’s Court in Katutura is set to continue tomorrow.