Hong Kong blood ivory suspects taken to court in Dar es Salaam


When shock news broke a few weeks ago over the seizure of a record haul of blood ivory in Hong Kong, and fingers were pointed immediately at Tanzania, the first reaction from Dar es Salaam was one of denial and feigned outrage. This however soon gave way to a more sober assessment as international arrest warrants were issued by Hong Kong authorities for at least 3 Tanzanians suspected to have been closely connected with the seized shipment.

A more recent seizure by Hong Kong customs officials then had Tanzania’s tourism Minister Amb. Khamis Kagesheki come out with guns blazing, promising action and apparently kicking off a series of police searches, leading to the arrest of some prominent Tanzanians who appeared in court late last week.

One Hassan Othman, currently chairman of Tanzania’s Coast Regional Football Association, together with at least four others, appeared in court charged with a number of offences related to the seizure of the blood ivory in Hong Kong as well as for possessing and handling ivory. With investigations still ongoing, the case was postponed until tomorrow, Wednesday for another mention though the accused were not required to take a plea, as the case was likely to be moved to a higher court due to the gravity of the offenses of economic sabotage.

Many observers have attributed the arrests and ongoing crackdown on poachers, which led to several seizures of elephant tusks and other trophies in recent weeks, to Kagesheki’s determined stand against poaching, which has the apparent backing of Tanzania’s powers that be – a complete U-turn from the agenda of his sacked predecessor under whose reign poaching literally took root like a wildfire, costing at least 30 elephant their lives each day.

Said a regular source from Dar es Salaam while discussing these latest developments: ‘I begin to see why you are in favour of Kagesheki. The man seems to be exactly the no nonsense man you describe him to be and means business. I guess his first reaction when the big shipment was confiscated in Hong Kong was a result of bad information by his officials but I guess they will be paying for that. Now, I think he understands how serious poaching has become and how bad it is for us in Tanzania. I like the economic sabotage charges, because that is what poaching is. I think if anyone can turn this around it should be Kagesheki because he also has a lot of respect in cabinet where he can rally support of other ministers in charge of police and other security organs’.

It could not be established though if the international arrest warrants from Hong Kong were for those now in court in Dar es Salaam, and if extradition would be considered, should indeed they be the suspects sought by the Hong Kong Chinese authorities. Watch this space.

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