State agencies track Lin

State agencies track Lin

Though serving a 14-year jail sentence for wildlife crimes and money laundering, Lin Yun Hua is under surveillance and investigation on how he acquired land in Lilongwe Rural.

We have established that the Chinese convict, believed to be a wildlife ring kingpin, owns eight hectares of land in Gumulira Village located about three kilometres from Kamuzu International Airport (KIA) junction.

Well-placed sources in the Malawi Police Service, the Financial Intelligence Authority (FIA) and Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) confirmed the investigation which seeks to establish if the land in question is proceeds of crime.

In a written response recently, FIA spokesperson Masautso Ebere said they are aware of the land in question but the ACB was better placed to provide details.

Believed to be kingpin of wildlife ring: Lin

He said: “The FIA is one of the agencies involved in the case of Lin and others, especially regarding parallel financial investigations and asset tracing leading to conviction of the person a few years ago.

“The FIA is aware of the said land and other assets. For latest details we request that you contact the ACB as they have a special project on asset recovery relating to illegal wildlife trade.”

ACB principal public relations officer Egrita Ndala said the bureau conducted its investigations and the issue of Lin going out of prison to buy properties formed part of that investigation.

“Considering some sensitive issues surrounding this case we are not in a position to divulge more information until an appropriate time,” she said.

There are also allegations that Lin, who was granted leave to appeal his sentence by the Supreme Court, has continued to purchase more land in this village, yet he faces deportation when he concludes his sentence.

 During our visit to the village, we were shown the said he owns land and interviewed a family that admitted to have sold land to him.

“I sold my land for K700 000. He paid through his agent and that was in 2022. This is the only piece I had but I had no choice. I needed money,” claimed Tiyeni Kadzamira, a fairly old man who could not share any paperwork for this transaction.

He showed us the  land which is connected to another piece that was sold to Lin by another villager Tsogolani Samson, who is also Lin’s agent for land deals and manages the farm.

Samson was arrested alongside Lin for wildlife offences, but served his time and is back in the village.

In an interview at the farm, he said the land in question was voluntarily sold to Lin; hence, he does not see a problem.

Told that the current customary law does not allow a foreigner to own customary land, Samson claimed that he was not aware of this piece of legislation and that it was a scheme by some chiefs to take away land from his ‘boss’.

In a telephone interview, he refused to comment on the issue which has villagers pointing at him as the one buying land on behalf of his boss.

Said Samson: “These people, including chiefs, were selling him land willingly. What’s the problem? I think you should wait for him to come out of prison and then ask him these questions.”

In an interview, group village head Gumulira said he was aware that Lin was buying land from villagers through his agents.

Said Gumulira: “I am shocked that someone is in prison, but is able to buy land and this is someone who is facing deportation. How is he getting the money to buy more land?”

Another local identified as Japhet Chimpeni claimed that he was approached by Lin’s agents to sell them his land but he refused because he does not want to become landless. He also wondered how he can buy more land when he is facing deportation.

From random conversations with community members in the village – Lin is well-known and enjoys some positive standing. The convict employed some of the people at his farm while others received free food.

But what is unknown to these villagers is that the amended Customary Land Act of 2022 prohibits foreigners from owning customary land.

Ministry’s findings

When we asked the Ministry of Lands if it knew that Lin was acquiring customary land – the ministry undertook its own investigations and Principal Secretary David Chilonga shared the following findings:

(a) Preliminary investigations have established that Mr Lin Yun Hua bought approximately 8 hectares of land along the dambo under the jurisdiction of Village Headman Gumulira and other villages around 2015 for the purposes of grazing his livestock and farming.

The chiefs said community members sold the land to the Chinese national willingly. If the land in question was indeed acquired in 2015, there was no law prohibiting foreigners from acquiring customary land.

(b)The ministry also established that a “Mr. Tsogolani Samson” of Village Head         Dishoni sold approximately 0.200 of a hectare of customary land to the Chinese national around 2015 without the knowledge of Village Head Gumulira and his subjects who have been using the land to hold communal meetings (ground).

Since the land is used by both villages for holding community meetings, the villagers were not happy that the land was sold. The two village heads therefore, agreed to mobilise money to pay back to Mr Hua in order to redeem the land. The cash that was mobilised was handed over to Group Village Head Chinoko. However, it is not clear whether Group Village Headman Chinoko paid back the money to Mr Hua as he is still using the land.

(c)  The Ministry of Lands does not have records that the land is registered in the name of Mr Lin Yun Hua. Therefore, the status of the land remains customary.

If it is indeed confirmed that the subject piece of land is not registered in favour of Mr Hua, the ministry will ensure that it should be registered in favour of indigenous owners who will then be allowed to lease it to any foreigner, including the one who is currently using it.

In his submission to the court Lin indicated that he arrived in Malawi in 2008 but the evidence from immigration in his case established that he entered Malawi in 2014 and that he holds a resident permit. The court record shows that he owns land used for vegetable farming and rearing of livestock.

The post State agencies track Lin first appeared on The Nation Online.

The post State agencies track Lin appeared first on The Nation Online.