Tanga elephant tusks smuggling case: TRA official accused of conspiring with smugglers THISDAY REPORTER Dar es Salaam AT least one official of the Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA) is among a group of Tanzanian nationals presently facing charges of colluding with poachers to illegally export 5, 000 kilogrammes of elephant tusks valued at 375.17m/- in a case now pending at the Tanga High Court, it has been established. According to court records made public this week, the TRA official involved is identified as Nyaisa Makori, who is charged alongside four others - Michael Kijangwa, Michael Msuya, Bakari Salum, and Morgan Maliki. They face a total of 17 counts falling under economic crimes, including felonies of conspiracy, forgery, illegal exporting, plus falsifying and then destroying a key document, in a case which first landed before the Tanga High Court in 2007. The case is now scheduled to come up for hearing on April 20 this year, Tanga High Court District Registrar Mustafa Mlawa has confirmed. Although it has been dragging on virtually unnoticed for the past two years, this case has suddenly come into the limelight for its striking similarities with a much more recent incident where over 40bn/- worth of elephant tusks - believed to have been smuggled out of Tanzania � were seized by customs officials in Vietnam. Reports say there were more than 200 pairs of tusks in the Vietnam haul, which ship records showed had been shipped out of the port of Dar es Salaam in late January this year. The shipment is now in the hands of customs authorities in that country, with plans reportedly in motion to auction the lot. It is understood that the Tanga case involves the smuggling of two containers - also filled with fresh elephant tusks - from the Tanga Port to Taiwan back in June 2006. Court records show that seven people were originally arraigned, but the prosecution withdrew its charges against two of them - Aden Mwakalobo and Victoria Mzee � for lack of sufficient evidence before the hearing started. According to the charge sheet, the remaining five accused are now charged with conspiring to export government trophies concealed as sisal fibre stuffed in a container; conspiring to destroy a shipping document with intent to prevent it from being used as evidence; and actually destroying the document which had been falsified as a single bill of entry. The first accused, Kijangwa, is also charged with unlawful possession of government trophies in the form of 5,000 kilos of elephant tusks. The containers are believed to have been on their way to the Philippines, as a final destination, when they were nabbed in Taiwan. Official documents indicated that they contained 60 bales of sisal fibre, and gave the name of the exporter as Kraasel Company of an Eckenforde Road-based shipping agent in Tanga. The TRA official, Makori, faces a separate charge of forgery by making out a false report purporting to have examined the container and confirming that it contained bales of sisal flume tow. All five accused are together charged with loading goods outside an approved place of loading without written permission. The first, second and third accused are furthermore alleged to have deliberately altered a delivery note of K & K Company without authority, and then uttering the falsified document with intent to deceive. The delivery note is believed to have later been destroyed, hence the charge of destroying a key document. The case is being presided over by High Court District Registrar Mlawa, who was resident magistrate when it was first opened in 2007.