A judge in the West Africa country of Togo threw the book at convicted ivory trafficker Emile N’Bouke on June 18, sentencing him to the maximum penalty permitted by Togo law—two years in prison, and a fine equivalent to US $10,300. That isn’t an especially big book, according to some observers, but it was indeed the most that could be done. And the case established several other precedents that benefit elephants and encourage those who seek to protect them.
It was a high-profile case in which a notorious ivory dealer was finally caught in possession of nearly a ton of ivory. There is suspicion N’Bouke was linked to much of the other 4.5 tons Togo has recently seized, and perhaps also to the 3.8 tons shipped from Togo to Vietnam last year.
Togo government prosecutor Blaise Kanmanpene received technical guidance from the US Embassy, and INTERPOL sent an incident support team to help with evidence collection. Small chips of ivory were taken from the seized tusks and sent to the University of Washington for DNA analysis.
This was the first time that DNA analysis has been admitted as evidence for the prosecution of an ivory case in an African court, and the results proved incriminating. DNA analysis revealed that the ivory in N’Bouke’s stockpile came from places like Congo, Cameroon, Guinea, Liberia, Ivory Coast, and Ghana—evidence that the ivory had been smuggled into Togo and that N’Bouke has a supply network with tentacles across much of West Africa.
Two co-defendents, Djifa Doumbouya and Moussa Cherif, were also convicted by the court and issued the same sentence as N’Bouke. Doumbouya is now off to prison, although Cherif has slipped away. An international arrest warrant has been issued for him.
N’Bouke had been known around Togo’s capital, Lome, as Le Patron (The Boss)—something like a mafia-style godfather. But today he is gibier de potence—jailbird.