THE High Court's Corruption and Economic Division has sentenced a man, Daudi Maturo, to 20 years’ imprisonment for unlawful possession of 10 teeth and 18 lion claws, which are government trophies, valued at over 32m/-.
Judge Imakulata Banzi, who was hearing the economic case before the High Court, Arusha Registry, gave such a sentence after convicting Maturo of the offence. She ruled that the prosecution sufficiently proved the case against him beyond a reasonable doubt.
In addition to the punishment, the judge also ordered the confiscation into government property one motor vehicle, where the lion teeth and claws were found. She took into consideration the evidence tendered by both parties - the prosecution and defence.
Before reaching the conclusion, the judge had to determine a number of issues, including whether the accused person was found with the government trophies and that the chain of custody was maintained.
In resolving the question of possession of the government trophies, Judge Banzi revisited the prosecution's evidence, showing that on June 21, 2017, a search was conducted in a motor vehicle where the accused was and in the course of search, she said, a khaki envelope was found on the dashboard.
Within the envelope, there were 10 lion teeth and 18 claws. Such items were thereafter seized and a certificate of seizure, which was signed by both accused by his handwritten signature and the thumb print. The judge pointed out that such evidence could not receive a backlash from defence.
According to her, the accused person attempted to introduce and rely on the defence of alibi, meaning that he was not on the scene of crime on June 21, 2017.
However, the judge said, such defence flawed the law procedure, requiring him to indicate the particulars of the alibi at preliminary hearing.
"Since (prosecution witnesses) stated that the accused signed the certificate of seizure on June 21, 2017 and they were not cross-examined on that part, it is the considered view of this court that (he) signed to acknowledge that (the trophies were) actually found in his possession," she ruled.
Regarding the question of the chain of custody, the judge considered the evidence tendered and it was her considered view that the chain of custody was established from the time the lion teeth and claws were seized from the accused person until they were brought to court.
"There is no any missing link or possibility of tampering with (the government trophies) as the evidence is very clear how it changed hands from one person to another and how it remained in the custody of (the exhibit keeper) who tendered the same in court," the judge said.
It was alleged by the prosecution that on June 21, 2017 at Arusha Star Makao Mapya in the city of Arusha, the accused person was found with the government trophies, all valued at $14,700, equivalent to 32,951,667/- without a permit from the director of wildlife.
Maturo was charged jointly with Hassan Said, who opted to enter a plea bargaining agreement with the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP). He was given conditions, including paying 65,903,334/- to the government as compensation.
Pursuant to such agreement, Said pleaded guilty to the charge whereby he was convicted and sentenced to pay 1m/- fine or in default to serve a term of six months in jail. He paid the fine as well as the compensation to escape the custodian sentence.