Leonard Ncube, Victoria Falls Reporter
THE seven Chinese nationals who are accused of illegally possessing more than 20kg of rhino horn pieces with an estimated value of close to $1 million have approached the High Court seeking to stop their trial.
Zeng Dengui (35), Peicon Jang (35), Liu Cheng (23), Yu Xian (25), Yong Zhu (25), Chen Zhiangfu (30) and Qui Jinchang (29) have been in custody since their arrest on December 23.
They have pleaded not guilty to charges of money laundering and possession of ivory.
The seven were supposed to be put to their defence yesterday after Regional Magistrate Mr Collet Ncube dismissed their application for discharge at the close of the State case a fortnight ago.
Their lawyers, Mr Martin Chakasara instructed by Mr Givemore Mvhiringi of Mvhiringi and Associates yesterday sought the court’s leave to defer trial to Monday so they can make an application for review of the magistrates’ court’s decision to dismiss their application for discharge and another one for stay of prosecution pending review.
The defence will submit the applications at the Bulawayo High Court today. Its argument is that the State has no case against the accused.
The magistrate deferred trial to Monday.
“In the interest of a fair trial, I defer the matter to Monday March 25 but should defence fail to file the applications between today and Monday the matter will proceed. However, if the applications are made, the High Court will determine,” said Mr Ncube.
The prosecution represented by Mrs Martha Cheda and Ms Memory Munsaka led evidence from police and Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority investigators.
Allegations against the seven are that on December 23, they were found in possession of several pieces of rhino horns weighing 20,98kg and valued at $938 700 at house number 858 Aerodrome suburb in Victoria Falls where they were renting.
The house belongs to a taxidermist who operates a wildlife trophy shop.
Police allegedly received a tip-off and raided the house after obtaining a search warrant from court.
They recovered several pieces of rhino horns weighing 20,98kg in a bedroom used by one of the accused.
A digital scale was also recovered.