Weak legislative environment threat to countering environmental crime
Weak legislative environment in most African countries is one of the key contributing factors hindering the fight against environmental crime on the continent, legal expert says.
Weak legislative environment in most African countries is one of the key contributing factors hindering the fight against environmental crime on the continent, according to a legal expert.
Didi Wamukoya, Director of Counter Wildlife Trafficking at the African Wildlife Foundation, disclosed this today on the second day of a week-long advanced training in environmental journalism in the modern age in Harare, Zimbabwe.
“This weak legislative environment makes investigations useless, but then legislation must be enforceable and have deterrent penalties. Again, the situation causes surrounding countries to have low penalties and this may lead to a shift of criminal groups to those countries,” said Wamukoya, as she made her presentation dubbed Law Enforcement and Prosecutorial Programme.
Wamukoya cited the Chumlong Lemthongthai –Vs- the State (2014) case in South Africa as an example of how a weak legislative environment would cause serious problems in a country.
“Chumlong, a Thai national believed to be have been the kingpin of an international rhino horn smuggling ring, abused the rhino horn permit system in South Africa by paying Thai prostitutes to pose as big game hunters, who participated in rhino hunts on game reserves in South Africa,” said Wamukoya.
The court handling the case in South Africa later learned that the Chumlong syndicate used the white rhino trophy hunts as a front to export the rhino horns to Asian markets, in a practice known as ‘pseudo-hunting’
Court documents show Chumlong that “successfully applied in terms of Chapter 7 of the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act 10 of 2004 (the NEMBA) to the Department of Environmental Affairs for 26 permits to shoot and kill a rhino, representing to them that professional hunters would hunt and kill the rhino for trophy purposes.”
In part, the court documents read, “In fact, the persons whose names appeared on the permits did not participate in the hunt that was supervised by department officials. Ultimately, at the instance of the appellant, 26 rhinos were shot and killed and most of their horns were exported. Simply put, the object was not to hunt rhino for trophy purposes but rather to engage unlawfully in trade in rhino horn.”
Chumlong was ultimately convicted of rhino horn trafficking and jailed for 13 years by the South African Supreme Court of Appeal in 2013.