A Chinese businessman charged with illegally dealing in elephant tusks and possessing other wildlife products is due to go on trial with two Namibian co-accused in the Windhoek Regional Court in November.
The trial of Hou Xuecheng and his co-accused was scheduled to start before magistrate Ileni Velikoshi last week, but ended up being postponed to 5 November because no Mandarin interpreter was available to assist with the translation of court proceedings for Hou.
Hou (41), fellow Chinese citizen Sha Zhiwei, Indian national Rajaiyah Kumar, and Namibian Hamutenja Stanislaus Hamutenya were arrested in June 2014 after they had allegedly been caught dealing in ivory in Windhoek. Another Namibian, George Mashala, was arrested on the same charge at the end of July 2014.
Only Hou and the two Namibians were present for their court appearance last week, though. Having been released on bail of N$20 000 each in September 2014, Kumar and Sha have been fugitives from justice in Namibia since failing to turn up for a scheduled court appearance in January 2015.
Court records reflect that Hou paid their bail on 9 September 2014. Hou has been free on bail of N$30 000 since 29 July 2014.
The state has charged all five of the accused with a count of dealing in controlled wildlife products, based on an allegation that they dealt in four elephant tusks with a combined weight of 54 kilogrammes in Windhoek on 11 June 2014.
Hou, Kumar and Sha are also charged with two counts of possessing controlled wildlife products without a permit. In respect of those charges, the prosecution is alleging that the three men were in possession of a cheetah skin and a leopard skin in Windhoek on 12 June 2014 without having the required permits to possess the skins, and that they also had seven zebra skins, a pangolin skin, and a stuffed leopard head in their possession at China Town in Windhoek on 11 October 2014 without having permits to possess those wildlife products.
Hou has also faced other legal difficulties in Namibia more recently.
After Anti-Corruption Commission investigators seized two lorries and their cargo of timber - alleged to have been illegally logged in the Zambezi region - at Walvis Bay at the start of January, the close corporation New Force Logistics, through which Hou is doing business and which is the registered owner of the lorries, sued the ACC to have the vehicles and their cargo returned to it.
In a judgement delivered in the Windhoek High Court almost two weeks ago, the ACC was ordered to return the lorries and four shipping containers with timber to New Force Logistics, since the ACC investigators did not have a warrant authorising the search and seizure they carried out when they confiscated the vehicles and their cargo.
The four shipping containers with timber that was being transported to the Walvis Bay harbour have in the meantime again been seized by the ACC, after a warrant authorising that action had been obtained.
Hou, Hamutenya and Mashala remain free on bail while waiting for the start of their trial.