Eight Year Mombasa Ivory Case Closer to Conclusion
January 15th, 2013 Mombasa Port - 3.8 metric tonnes of ivory spread out as part of the verification process. (photo courtesy Norbert Allen)

Eight Year Mombasa Ivory Case Closer to Conclusion

SEEJ-AFRICA THUMBNAIL:

  • April 28th, 2021: Kenya’s longest running major ivory prosecution is one step closer to conclusion with both defence and prosecution now preparing their final submissions.
  • Mombasa clearing agent, Fredrick Sababu Mungule, and Kenya Revenue Agency (KRA) officer, James Ngala Kassiwa, had been arraigned in early 2013 after Kenyan authorities found a shipment at Mombasa port of 3.8 metric tonnes of ivory in the final stages of shipment.
  • Last Wednesday, both Sababu and Kassiwa testified in their own defence, stating they did no more than their regular duties in relation to the container shipment.
  • Kenyan prosecutors have previously charged clearing agents in four different prosecutions and have yet to obtain a conviction.  The case returns to court on May 26th.

It has taken 99 months for the defence to finally reach the point where it could request time of the court to write up its final submissions. 

On Wednesday April 28th at almost 4pm, accused James Kassiwa finished testifying in his defence and Jarod Magolo requested three weeks to prepare his written submissions.  DPP prosecutor Edgar Mulamula likewise made a similar request and so Chief Magistrate Edna Nyaloti has ordered the court to re-convene on May 26th for such purpose.

This journey actually began in mid-January 2013 when three separate shipments of ivory were prepared for Hong Kong, Singapore and China.  Hong Customs found the first 1.3 tonne shipment on January 3rd.  Similar bills of lading led to the other two seizures in Singapore on or about January 11th and then the 3.8 tonne Mombasa seizure on the 14th/15th.

Kenyan investigators initially charged James Kassiwa, the KRA officer who permitted the container entry into the port, and Gideon Naftali Osinyo, a Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) officer involved in the berthing process.   Two weeks later, the clearing agent, Fredrick Sababu, was charged.  It has been alleged that the trio were involved in the shipment of all three shipments.  In January 2014, Naftali Osinyo, reportedly died, leaving just two on the charge sheet.

Sababu and Kassiwa have been charged with two offences relating to illegal exportation under the East African Community Customs Act and could face a maximum of five years in jail and a fine.

While not the subject of the accusations before the court. it is clear that the containers of ivory were moved with the assistance of others in both the KRA and KPA who were able to circumvent established protocols.  Corruption was evident at a number of levels, and clearly a reason behind the death threats on Jim Karani, the legal manager of Wildlife Direct, who was ‘watching brief’ for a period of time.

In past ivory prosecutions involving clearing agents (there have been four), there has yet to be a conviction.  Past investigations have failed to provide the court with the evidence that the clearing agents had direct knowledge of the contents of the container. These prosecutions have also been muddied by clear evidence of the involvement of others who police have not been unable to locate.

It is doubtful, yet again, that the prosecution has passed the threshold of “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

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