By Jite Eriabie with Agency Reports
A court in Kisutu, an administrative ward in the Ilala District of the Dar es Salaam Region of Tanzania, has sentenced a Chinese businesswoman Yang Feng Glan nicknamed “Ivory Queen” to 15 years in prison for smuggling nearly two tonnes of ivory to Asia.
Glan was charged in October 2015 after a year-long manhunt along with her Tanzanian co-accused, Salivius Francis Matembo and Manase Julius Philemon with smuggling 860 pieces of ivory worth TSh13 billion ($5.6 million) between 2000 and 2004.
Magistrate Huruma Shaidi on Tuesday sentenced the trio each to 15 years after they were convicted of leading an organized criminal gang.
The magistrate also ordered them to either pay twice the market value of the elephant tusks, which authorities put at $12.9 million or face another two years in prison.
According to local media reports, Yang was escorted under tight security to the Ukonga prison in Dar es Salaam where she is expected to serve her jail time.
Police sources said Yang, 69, had lived in Tanzania since the 1970s and was secretary-general of the Tanzania China-Africa Business Council.
A Swahili speaker, she owns a popular Chinese restaurant in Dar es Salaam.
In the last decade alone, Africa has lost about 110,000 elephants, with an estimated 415,000 elephants still living on the continent, according to the Worldwide Fund for Nature.
In Tanzania, the elephant population shrank from 110,000 in 2009 to little more than 43,000 in 2014, according to a 2015 census, with conservation groups blaming “industrial-scale” poaching.
Demand for ivory from Asian countries such as China, Vietnam and Thailand, where it is turned into jewellery and ornaments, has led to a surge in poaching across Africa.
In March 2016, Tanzania sentenced two Chinese men to 35 years each in jail for ivory smuggling, while in December 2015 another court sentenced four Chinese men to 20 years in jail each after they were convicted of smuggling rhino horns.