Court grants wildlife trafficker leave to appeal sentence

Court grants wildlife trafficker leave to appeal sentence

Chinese wildlife trafficking kingpin Yun Hua Lin, serving a 14-year sentence, should be all smiles after the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal (MSCA) granted him leave to appeal the sentence.

The Chief Resident Magistrate’s Court in Lilongwe convicted Lin in June 2021 on his own plea of guilty of possessing a specimen of listed species without licence contrary to Section 86(1) of the National Parks and Wildlife Act as read with Section 110 (b) of the National Parks and Wildlife Act. The High Court confirmed the sentence.

In the application, the prisoner, among others, argued that in the spirit of uniformity and fairness he should have been sentenced to seven and not 14 years, since he pleaded guilty while his co-accused who denied the charge were given seven years.

The court also granted an extension allowing Lin, who is serving time at Maula Prison in Lilongwe, to file his notice of appeal outside the time. The court has since granted him 21 days—from March 15 2024—for him to lodge his notice of appeal.

According to a copy of the judgement by Justice of Appeal Lovemore Chikopa, dated March 15 2024, the court however denied him bail pending appeal, stating that the State provided evidence that while he was lawfully-committed to prison, he had been enjoying irregular time outside prison.

But the court observed that in the interest of justice there is need for explanation to the applicant why on virtually identical facts he was sentenced to 14 years when his co-accused were jailed for seven years.

Lin (L) captured during one of his court appearences

The 10- page judgement further states that the convict has something to lose as he is in prison, adding that how long he stays there is dependent on whether the appeal is heard.

According to the applicant, he had instructed his counsel to appeal within the prescribed time but they did not and; therefore, he should not be made to suffer when it was not his fault.

Lin, who authorities told our sister newspaper Nation on Sunday two months ago that he was the most wanted person on wildlife trafficking issues in the country, was arrested in August 2019 after a three-month manhunt.

His arrest was widely heralded and regarded as a breakthrough for Malawi’s fight against wildlife crimes.

An investigation in the Malawi Prisons Service (MPS) exposed that Lin could willy-nilly go out of Maula Prison for unsanctioned personal business contrary to procedures.

The paper also reported that Lin was accorded preferential treatment and used donations to buy freedom in jail.

According to an internal report, Lin’s exploitation of prison authorities started in 2019 when he was at Maula on remand. The report shows that he visited his farm to slaughter livestock to feed prisoners and bought seeds for a vegetable garden he personally managed at Maula Prison.

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