Chinese national enjoying in Malawi prison: Allowed free movement across Lilongwe


Chinese prisoner Yunhua Lin who is serving a 14-year jail term is enjoying special privileges at Maula Prison as he is allowed to go to his house for days, to conduct transactions in banks and to go for shopping sprees in Malawi’s capital Lilongwe, according to a report by the Platform for Investigative Journalism (PIJ).

Lin is leader of a notorious Chinese gang which was illegally trading in wildlife products from Malawi and other countries in Southern Africa.  In 2021, he was sentenced to 14 years in prison for trading in rhino horn, conspiracy, and money laundering. His wife, Zhang Qinhua was sentenced alongside eight other members to a total of 56 years in prison for illegal trade in wildlife products.

`Lin (L) at a garage

PIJ has published an investigative report supported by videos and pictures showing Lin outside prison walls accompanied by guards in official prison vehicle.

In the pictures, Lin is wearing regular clothes and according to PIJ in March he visited his home at Area 9 in Lilongwe and also went on a shopping spree at Shoprite. He is also allowed to use his own vehicle when he leaves the prison vehicle.

“12 April 2023, Lin went out of prison in a prison vehicle, wearing civilian clothes, accompanied by three prison guards. They took Lin to a garage in Biwi, Lilongwe, called Singapore GT Investments before proceeding to Lin’s residence in Area 9. In footage obtained by PIJ, Lin is wearing a purple shirt and a baseball cap. The name of the garage is visible in the footage and photos.

“Aside from being able to go home for periods, when Lin is outside the prison facility, he is left to walk outside without a prison uniform or handcuffs on, despite his conviction.

“Surveillance captured Lin at his house, his farm in Lumbadzi on the outskirts of the capital city, in shopping malls, at a garage, and continually escorted by two or three prison guards in an official prison service vehicle,” PIJ reported.

According to a security expert who spoke to the PIJ, inmates are allowed outside prison during court appearances but not for shopping sprees or visits to banks.

“If you are convicted, you cannot be doing business or going to the bank to transact,” the expert Aubrey Kabisala said.

Speaking to the PIJ, Maula Prison officials led by the Officer-in-Charge only identified as Mr Mwale and his deputy, Station Officer Peter Kalawe, as well as officers from its public relations office said Lin was allowed outside on a “few occasions” to attend medical treatment at Kamuzu Central Hospital on referral from the health facility at the prison and on one occasion to visit the bank.

They added that the officers who escorted Lin on these occasions may have taken him to other places and this constitutes a criminal offence.

Meanwhile, the Malawi Prison Service has said in a statement that prisoners have a right to go to the hospital and conduct transactions at the bank under the supervision of the officers.

The prison service, however, has described the allegations of the home visits as serious and has committed to take serious action against all involved in Lin’s shenanigans.

The revelations come as Lin has appealed to get out of serving the rest of his sentence.  The appeal will be heard in Malawi’s Supreme Court on 29 May.  

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