A man from Milnerton, Cape Town has been charged with the illegal possesion of elephant tusks and ivory products worth an estimated R10 million or approximately $1.3 million USD.
According to IOL, Qi Lu, 34, appeared in the Cape Town Magistrate’s Court on Monday after his arrest at his business in Spearhead Business Park, Montague Gardens, last Wednesday. He has been granted bail of R1 million.
After conducting a routine inspection at a courier company, a large consignment of ivory addressed to Lu was found.
After viewing this consignment, a combined undercover effort by the Hawks, Sars (South African Revenue Service) and CapeNature led them to the business premises of Lu.
On visiting Lu's business premises, more ivory products and elephant tusks were seized, along with a cutting machine used to manufacture ivory products. The approximate value of these items is between R6 million and R10 million.
Aradhana Heeramun, the state advocate said that the prosecution was not opposed to Lu's release on bail, but recommended R2 million due to the value of the illegal items found in Lu's possession.
Zurena Abrahams, lawyer for Lu, tried to argue the bail down to R100,000, because she said her client did not have a criminal record.
The prosecutor responded: “These offences are extremely prevalent and sensitive at this stage. To set bail at R100, 000 is an absolute mockery.”
Heeramun advised that Lu had a South African and Chinese passport, and that surrendering his passport would not guarantee that he would return to court and she mentioned that he had no fixed assets in SA.
“This accused has to be red-flagged at Home Affairs and the Chinese consulate. The State is asking for R2 million bail and the accused should consider himself fortunate that the State is not opposing bail. He is an affluent man of financial stature,” Heeramun said.
Abrahams said: “The purpose of bail isn’t to burden an accused. The accused has no intention of moving to China, he has made his life here in South Africa. He is a South African citizen.”
Abrahams responded that the State was in possession of Lu's South African passport and that he would also declare his Chinese passport.
“The accused has no objection to reporting conditions or any other conditions or assisting the investigating officer in the investigation,” she said.
After all considerations the magistrate Jasthree Steyn set bail at R1 million, with strict conditions that Lu report to Milnerton police station every day, surrender all previous and current passports, and prohibited him from visiting any port of entry.
Lu is due back in court on May 16.
Ivory theft and smuggling is a crime in South Africa, with poachers often killing elephants for their tusks. Heavy sentences are needed in an attempt to stop this poaching.