By Joseph Muraya
A suspected ivory trafficking ringleader appeared in court in Mombasa on Tuesday to appeal to be let out on bail, but with the prosecutor arguing he remained a serious flight risk.
Feisal Mohammed Ali, who figured on an Interpol list of nine most wanted suspects linked to crimes against the environment, was arrested in Tanzania last week and extradited to face charges in Kenya.
Ali faces trial for “dealing and possession of elephant tusks” weighing more than two tonnes and equivalent to at least 114 poached elephants.
The haul was discovered by police in June when they raided a car dealership, and after which Ali fled to Tanzania.
State Counsel Alexander Muteti described Ali, 47, as a “man of means, a powerhouse” who had both the cash and the motivation to flee again if he was granted bail.
“He is a flight risk. If released, he will definitely abscond. We oppose his release on bail,” Muteti told the court, dismissing the assertion from Ali’s lawyer that his client had a right to bail and would comply with its conditions.
Mombasa’s top judge, Justus Kituku, said a ruling on the bail application will be made on January 9.
Detectives close to the case have described Ali as the leader of a multi-million dollar international poaching network.
They also say he has enjoyed protection from top officials in various east African security agencies and governments.
Elephant ivory is sought out for jewellery and decorative objects and much of it is smuggled to China, where many increasingly wealthy shoppers are buying ivory trinkets as a sign of financial success.
A sharp rise in poaching in Kenya, which is home to an estimated 30,000 elephants and just over one thousand rhinos, has sparked warnings from conservation groups that the government is losing the fight against the slaughter.
He is the second of the nine alleged “environmental criminals” listed by Interpol to have been arrested since the Interpol appeal last month.
Earlier this month, Zambian national Ben Simasiku was arrested on charges of possessing ivory from Botswana.
In November, Interpol said the arrest of the suspects would “contribute to the dismantlement of transnational organised crime groups who have turned environmental exploitation into a professional business with lucrative revenues.”