MINISTER of Lands, Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Mwansa Kapeya says the chief in Vubwi, Eastern Province, who allegedly smuggled over 1,000 logs of illegally cut timber into Malawi, has fled the country.
And Mr Kapeya says Government is making arrangements with Malawian authorities to have the seized timber in that country returned to Zambia.
Mr Kapeya said in an interview in Lusaka yesterday that police intercepted the traditional leader at Mwami border in Chipata after receiving information that he was with the buyer of illegal cut timber.
“So when the police got wind of it, they cornered him together with the buyer. When the docket was opened for him with his trader, they fled the country.
“They are in one of the neighbouring countries,” the minister said.
He said the chief has allegedly been using Mwami border to smuggle timber into Malawi and engaged a foreign national to collect and ferry it to an unknown destination.
Mr Kapeya commended members of the public for providing vital information to the ministry on the illegal timber trade.
He warned that individuals involved in illegal timber trade will be prosecuted.
Mr Kapeya said Government is not stopping anybody from trading in timber but that people should use the right channels so that Government can generate revenue to develop infrastructure such as hospitals, roads and schools.
And Mr Kapeya said his ministry has engaged the Ministry of Home Affairs to negotiate with Malawian authorities to have the timber seized in that country returned to Zambia.
Mr Kapeya commended the people of Malawi for not allowing smuggled Zambian timber to be transported through their country.
And police in Lusaka have arrested a Chinese man for allegedly illegally trading in timber.
Mr Kapeya said the suspect only identified as G. I. David was found loading timber onto his truck in Lusaka’s Kasupe around 21:00 hours and residents reported the matter to police
“Last night [Thursday], we pounced on a Chinese national in Kasupe area in Lusaka West on old Mumbwa Road.
Police swung into action after a tip-off from members of the public,”Mr Kapeya said.
The minister said a truck laden with timber has also been impounded.
Mr Kapeya said Government has heightened monitoring and will now use helicopter patrols and a toll-free line to enable people report cases of illegal timber trade.