Feisal Mohamed Ali is now in a Kenyan prison. He has begun to serve a term that will keep him there until July 21, 2036, when he will be 69 years old.
The Kenya Wildlife Service had long suspected Ali of being a kingpin among the ivory trafficking syndicates of Mombasa, Kenya’s port city on the Indian Ocean. So they and the Kenya Police Service kept vigilant watch of his activities, ready to act swiftly at the proper opportunity. That opportunity came on June 5, 2014, when a raid seized 4,744 pounds of contraband ivory concealed at a storage facility in Mombasa. That ivory was all that remained of at least 200 elephants who had been slaughtered by poachers.
Ali purchased the ivory from the poachers for about $645,600. Using his business and smuggling skills, Ali could have expected to sell that same ivory for about $4.5 million if he could deliver it to the black market buyers of East Asia.
Although the police were able to seize the ivory and arrest two of Ali’s subordinates, the kingpin himself made a desperate escape. Investigations indicated Ali had slipped across the border, into Tanzania. So the Kenyans turned to INTERPOL, the International Criminal Police Organization, which then issued a “Red Notice,” a formal request to all countries, asking them to arrest Ali and hold him for extradition to Kenya.
Ali was a fugitive for five months and one day, while investigation units from many agencies diligently combed through many leads. The cooperative effort paid off and Ali was found hiding in Dar es Salaam. Following a period of surveillance, he was cornered by Tanzanian police on the evening of December 22, 2014. The fugitive was peacefully arrested, booked, and delivered to Kenyan authorities for extradition and prosecution.
Ali could afford the very best defense attorneys. They fought like street cats for a year and a half and used every available maneuver and stratagem to protect Ali from a determined prosecution that was applying Kenya’s new and very resolute Wildlife Act. There were repeated court delays, medical excuses, the theft of important evidence linked to the case, even the destruction of the crime scene itself—the storage facility in Mombasa. The initial magistrate was withdrawn from the case amid allegations of impropriety and there was some intense quibbling over the legibility of that magistrate’s notes. But in the end, Ali was found guilty and condemned to 20 years in prison plus a fine of 20 million Kenya shillings (about $200,000).
Feisal Mohamed Ali may be the biggest ivory dealer convicted in recent years. But he is not the only one. Notorious ivory traffickers such as “Le Patron” Emile N’Bouke in Togo, “Shetani” (The Devil) Boniface Matthew Mariango in Tanzania, and “Queen of Ivory” Yang Feng Glan in Tanzania, as well, are a few of the major dealers who have been marched off to the hoosegow. Curiously, Asian enforcement agencies have not been reporting similar successes in their efforts to suppress this gruesome trade. But it is the Asian dealers who provide the primary financial incentive motivating the slaughter of 30,000 African elephants a year. And they appear to be virtually immune from law enforcement.