The video is shaky having been secretly captured. But the image of the table full of polished ivory artifacts and the merchant sitting behind them is clear. “How much?” asks the undercover agent, holding up a small ivory bracelet. Following a brisk response, the merchant reaches out a hand weighed down by a flashy, gold watch… $80 is exchanged for the life of an elephant. NAFTALI HONIG reports.
Soon after the ivory purchase, the police force burst in on the scene in this Brazzaville manor home. A scuffle ensues and the final image of the video is that of a hand flying towards the camera. An hour later François Ikama, the man caught red handed commercialising an extensive supply of processed ivory goods, left the crime scene a free man.
This is the demoralising story of Ikama’s latest arrest, which took place on the 12 March 2015 in the Republic of Congo. He should have gone straight to jail from the crime scene to await trial, but he was released on account of his connection with an ex member of parliament, his son, whose role in Congo’s civil war strikes fear into the hearts of police officers.
The events are all too familiar for the environmental activists of the Project for the Application of Law for Fauna in the Republic of Congo (PALF) that has tried to bring him to book. This is the third time in seven years this Congolese ivory trade kingpin has been caught red-handed: first in 2008, then in 2013, then again in 2015. Every time they have the same modus operandi – peddling influence via Ikama’s son, Marien Ikama. He showed up within minutes this time with several of his gangsters who proceeded to fight with officers of the law. Insult and injury.