Yang Fenglan is a Chinese business woman who has been resident in Tanzania since the 1970’s. One month ago, the 66-year old elderly lady was apprehended in Tanzania over the smuggling of elephant tusks.
No one would have thought that the nice elderly woman who couldn’t hurt a fly could be guilty of a crime of this magnitude.
However, Tanzanian authorities which have been tracking down her smuggling operations for a year now have finally arrested her.
Yang Fenglan is accused of leading one of Africa’s biggest ivory smuggling rings. The Tanzanian authorities say that the Chinese national is responsible for over 700 elephant tusks estimated to a worth $2.5 million (£1.7 million).
Yang Fenglan is from Beijing. In 1975 she worked the government’s foreign trade department, in Beijing. With her proficient mastering of Swahili, she worked as a translator for Tazara, the Tanzania-Zambia Railway project which was being constructed by China. In 1998 she started her businesses in Tanzania.
She ran a Chinese restaurant and an investment company identified as Beijing Great Wall Investment. By 2012 Yang was the secretary-general of the Tanzania China-Africa Business Council.
She has been reported to have attested to having some sort of sentimental attachments to Tanzania.
“I know I should have retired, but whenever I think that my language advantage and network can help many Chinese and Tanzanians and increase mutual trust and confidence, I do not want to stop. I myself am the best illustration of China-Tanzania friendship.”
Little did they know, her concerns were more business and criminally inclined. Her love was more for the tusks.
Tanzania has lost over 60% of its elephants between 2009 and 2014; courtesy of ivory-poaching. Earlier this year in April, Kenya incarcerated about 105 tonnes of Ivory and 1.5 tonnes of rhino horn as a sign of her anti-Ivory poaching stance.
With the arrest of Yang Fenglan, who is recognized as the Ivory queen ripping off Tanzania’s natural wealth, Tanzania is portraying a convincing move in eradicating ivory poaching in the country. This is definitely good news for wildlife enthusiasts and the East African nation as a whole.
As Yang still denies and is yet to face trial, the ivory kingpin faces a 30-year jail term when court officially finds her guilty.