Zimbabwe court refuses to drop charges against 7 Chinese caught with rhino horns
Hwange (Zimbabwe) (AFP) – Seven Chinese nationals being held in a Zimbabwe jail for money laundering and unlawful possession of rhino horn on Thursday lost their legal bid to have their charges dropped.
They were arrested on December 23 with more than 20 kilograms (44 lbs) of rhino horn pieces worth nearly a million US dollars.
A magistrate in the northern resort town of Hwange dismissed an application by the seven unemployed Chinese nationals to have the charges thrown out.
Their lawyer had argued the prosecution had failed to prove there was a case to answer.
The seven were ordered to return to court on March 19.
Acting on a tip-off, police detectives found the rhino horn stashed in a mattress, plastic bags and in boxes at a house in the nearby town of Victoria Falls.
Rhino horns are highly coveted in some Asian countries such as China and Vietnam, where they have fetched up to $60,000 per kilogramme, for their supposed medicinal qualities.
The demand has fuelled a boom in poaching and trafficking in Africa.