by Staff Writers
Mombasa, Kenya (AFP) Jan 9, 2015
A court in Kenya on Friday denied bail to a suspected ivory trafficking ringleader, after the prosecution argued his release would be a major blow to the fight against rampant poaching.
Kenyan national Feisal Mohammed Ali, who figured on an Interpol list of the nine most wanted suspects linked to crimes against the environment, was arrested by international police agents in Tanzania last month and extradited to face charges in Kenya's port city of Mombasa.
Magistrate Justus Kituku said Ali was a flight risk, as he had already fled Kenya to escape arrest.
"It shows he was trying to avoid the ends of justice... for that reason alone I found that there were convincing reasons why the accused should be denied bond," Kituku said.
Ali faces trial for possession of and dealing in elephant tusks weighing more than two tonnes -- equivalent to at least 114 slaughtered elephants. The haul was discovered by police in June when they raided a car dealership, and after which Ali fled to Tanzania.
He has denied all charges.
Detectives close to the case have described Ali as the leader of a multi-million dollar international poaching network.
- Wild elephants face extinction -
They also say he has enjoyed protection from top officials in various east African security agencies and governments -- backing up allegations from wildlife campaigners that poaching ringleaders have for years been able to operate with almost total impunity.
Last month state counsel Alexander Muteti described Ali, 47, as an "international fugitive who cannot be trusted."
"If the court allows a person like the accused to operate with impunity, there is no doubt that there will not be a single elephant left in the country to be seen by future generations," he said.
Ali is due to next appear in court on January 20.
Elephant ivory is sought out for jewellery and decorative objects and much of it is smuggled to China, where many increasingly wealthy shoppers are buying ivory trinkets as a sign of financial success.
A sharp rise in poaching in Kenya, which is home to an estimated 30,000 elephants and just over one thousand rhinos, has sparked warnings from conservation groups that the government is losing the fight against the slaughter and that elephants could be extinct in the wild within a generation.
Organised crime syndicates and rebel militia increasingly use poaching to fund insurgencies, reaping the benefits of multi-million-dollar demand.
Save the Elephants estimates an average of 33,000 elephants have been lost across Africa to poachers each year between 2010 and 2012.
The conservation group warned last month that the slaughter of elephants and illegal trade in ivory in China was "out of control" and could push wild elephants to extinction within a generation.
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