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Chinese Rhino Horn Smuggler Escapes From Namibian Prison

FILE - A black rhino is seen in Etosha National Park, Namibia, May 8, 2015.
FILE - A black rhino is seen in Etosha National Park, Namibia, May 8, 2015.

Authorities in Namibia say a Chinese man jailed for smuggling rhinoceros horns has escaped from prison.

Chinese national Wang Hui is on the run after he escaped from the Windhoek Correctional Facility, where he had been serving a 15-year sentence for the illegal export of controlled wildlife products.

Hui and three other Chinese men were arrested at the Hosea Kutako Airport in March 2014 and found to be in possession of rhino horns and a leopard skin worth millions on the black market.

The Windhoek Regional Court convicted the men in 2016.

The public relations officer at the Department of Correctional Services, Michael Mulisa, said Hui was on a work assignment outside the prison the day he escaped.

"On the said day the escapee was part of a team of offenders from the Windhoek Correctional Facility industrial workshop taken outside the facility to load material from a supplier in [at] Brakwater mix informal settlement," Mulisa said. "These materials are being used to partition or convert some rooms into offices at the Windhoek Central Hospital.

"It is alleged that the escapee was permitted by an officer guarding him to use a toilet and subsequently sneaked out from the toilet without being detected. Police officers are on the hunt for the escapee," he added.

Rhino horn poaching and smuggling are a persistent challenge for Namibian authorities.

In the past 10 months, 48 cases of rhino poaching have been reported by the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism. That number is up from 43 instances in 2021 and 40 in 2020.