Police officers sentenced for theft of elephant tusks in Niassa; identical cases yet to clarify in Maputo and Inhambane (Mozambique)

Feb 21, 2019 | News

The Club of Mozambique

The Judicial Court of the City of Lichinga in Niassa sentenced four members of the National National Investigation Service (SERNIC) on Friday (Feb.15) to two years’ imprisonment each, converted to a fine, for the theft, in 2016, of 20 elephant tusks.

The elephant tusks in question had been stored in a SERNIC warehouse in Lichinga, but were later seized in Cambodia, in south-east Asia.

Those involved were charged with the “theft of deposited objects”, provided for and punishable under the terms of Article 273/4 of the Criminal Code, according to the judge in the case, Laster Manhamanha.

The judge explained that the sentence imposed on the defendants would allow them to enjoy “alternative to prison sentences”, replacing the punishment with a fine “in the amount of 5% of the national minimum wage, in force in the Public Service, equivalent to 212 meticais” per day.

Judicial authorities in Maputo have however never reported any progress in criminal proceedings opened against the 11 persons arrested in 2015 for involvement in the disappearance of 65 ivory tips, weighing 124 kg, and stored in a supposedly safe place.

Some of these trophies and elephants tusks disappeared from the Provincial Directorate of Criminal Investigation Police, in Matola but were later seized, on May 12, 2015, in a luxurious Tchumene condominium.

Keys to the facilities where the ivory was stored had been entrusted to different agents of the Police of the Republic of Mozambique (PRM).

In connection with the detention were: Calisto, Inspector of the Police of the Republic of Mozambique (PRM) who was also head of the brigade of the then Criminal Investigation Police (PIC); Faustino Artur, principal inspector of the PRM; Victor Luís Arone, deputy inspector of PRM; Tadeu Gaspar, sergeant of PRM; and also Elias Matusse, assigned to the Provincial Directorate of Land, Environment and Rural Development in Maputo Province, and the civilians Zefanias Aurelio and John Chaúque.

In Inhambane province, the theft in 2017 of at least four ivory tips stored in Provincial Forest and Wildlife Services (SPFFB) premises also remains unsolved.

The product had been stored in state facilities for some time, and the manner of its removal raised strong suspicions of SPFFB employee involvement, there being no signs of a break-in, a local police source told @Verdade at the time.

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