After serving four months in jail in Zimbabwe’s resort town of Victoria Falls, seven Chinese nationals charged with money laundering and possession of rhino horns, have finally been granted bail.
Ranging in age from 23 to 35, the seven nationals were arrested in late December after being found in possession of cash and 20.98kg of rhino horns, worth close to $US1 million dollars.
Possession of rhino horns or ivory is a violation of the country’s laws as stipulated in the Wildlife and Parks Act.
The granting of Thursday’s bail, follows previous failed attempts to have the charges dropped.
The seven, who have all pleaded not guilty to the charges, were granted bail of $RTGS5, 000 (about $US1600), and are restricted from leaving the country, explained their lawyer, Godfrey Muvhiringi.
“They were granted bail in the sum of $RTGS5, 000. They are to surrender their passports to the clerk of court, Hwange, they are to reside at stand 858 Aerodrome Victoria Falls, they are not to travel beyond 10km of the Victoria Falls port office, except when they are attending court,” said Muvhiringi.
While the seven were granted bail by a judge in Zimbabwe’s second largest city of Bulawayo, they will only likely be released on Saturday, two nights after being granted bail.
Muvhiringi said the delay is procedural and typical of a bail-based release.
“We need to have the original order from the court, then we get a warrant of liberation from the clerk of court, as we also surrender their passports to the clerk of court,” he explained.
The seven nationals are expected back in court on Monday.
Under Zimbabwe’s Parks and Wildlife Act, penalty for illegal possession of ivory or rhino horn can include either or both a fine of up to three times the value of ivory or horn, or imprisonment of up to one year.