By Audrey Ngeny, Standard Media
A court in Eldoret has fined three men Sh1 million each or one-year imprisonment after they were arrested in possession of two pieces of elephant tusks each weighing five kilogrammes worth Sh400,000.·
John Panyako, Evans Chelulei and Jonathan Kiptanui were convicted after the court found them guilty of committing the offence on January 6, 2016.
Eldoret Senior Principal Magistrate Richard Odenyo in his ruling said there was no doubt that the three were found with the tusks based on evidence on record. “Having carefully perused the submissions by the prosecution and the accused, the court is satisfied that the prosecution has proved its case beyond reasonable doubt and proceed to convict the accused persons as charged,” the magistrate ruled.
The three were accused of being in possession of two pieces elephant tusks each weighing five kilograms without a permit from the Kenya Wildlife Service.
The prosecution told the court that the three committed the offence at Kaptuli Area of Eldoret East in Uasin Gishu County where they were arrested while they were waiting for a contact person to pick the tusks.
KWS Iten Deputy Warden John Ngatia told the court that he had received information from their intelligence officer David Lenaitamani based in Baringo that the accused persons were in possession of the tusks.
“Lenaitamani came to the station with their driver and another intelligence officer. I got to a different motor vehicle accompanied by another officer and followed them back. Lenaitamani and the other officer were to pose as the buyers of the tusks,” he said.
Ngatia told the court they set off for the mission and at around 6:30 pm where they were to lay ambush.
“When we reached Kaptuli, we saw three people who were in possession of a green paper bag. We then moved the vehicle to where they were and told them that we wanted to buy the tusks. I then persuaded them to enter the vehicle which they agreed,” Lenaitamani told the court.
He further told the Magistrate that the other officer was in communication with Ngatia who was in the KWS vehicle which was not far from the scene.
Ngatia then ambushed them and arrested the three men. They searched the bag and found two elephant tusks. They were then driven to Iten Police Station.
Ester Nguta, a specialist in animal remains modification process, told the court that she examined and confirm that the tusks were from elephants. “The exhibits had some features which were only found in elephant ivory. The exhibits were two pieces from one ivory,” she told the court.
In their defence, Chelulei told the court that he was a retired Kenya Defence Forces soldier and that on his way to town and he met Panyako and Kiptanui. He claimed he had asked for a lift from the double cabin since he was heading to town.
Kiptanui, told the Magistrate that Panyako had sold him a dress that he bought for his wife, which did not fit her, therefore, he wanted it replaced.
However, the magistrate noted that witnesses gave an elaborate account and operational process that led to the arrest of the suspects.
The suspects pleaded with the court for leniency saying they were first offenders as well as bread winners to their families.