2.4 tons of illicit elephant tusks seized in Hai Phong, again

A container imported from Malaysia was declared to contain seashells, but in fact, about 2.4 tons of ivory tusks were hidden inside, the second smuggling case within three weeks.

This file photo shows about 30 cut pieces of elephant tusks seized at Tan Son Nhat airport in HCMC in July 2012

Customs authorities in the northern port city of Hai Phong have discovered 2.4 tons of ivory tusks hidden inside a container imported from Malaysia, the second tusk smuggling case within three weeks.

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The customs declaration for the container claimed it held seashells, but in fact, elephant tusks, cut into pieces, were hidden inside bags of shells, customs officers reported.

A Singaporean shipping line had shipped the container from Malaysia. The shipment’s consignee is HG Exim Joint Stock Company, located at 5 Ly Tu Trong Street, Hoang Bang District, Hai Phong.

All goods in the container have been detained by customs for investigation.

A very similar case occurred in the same city earlier this month when customs officers found 2.1 tons of ivory tusks hidden inside a 40’ container also imported from Malaysia.

The customs declaration for the container claimed it held 27.5 tons of seashells, but in fact, it was packed with elephant tusks, cut into nearly 1,200 pieces, and other goods banned from importation.

The writer of the declaration is a one-member branch of the Hai Phong Trading, Services, Import and Export LC located in Quang Ninh Province, who insisted that the container is classified as goods temporarily imported for re-export.

In fact, the branch has made another customs declaration for re-exporting the container to China via northern Lang Son Province.

According to a recent report by the World Wide Fund for Nature, most ivory smuggled into Vietnam is destined for China, although some of the illicit goods are sold locally for US$770-1 200 per kilogram.

In both China and Vietnam, elephant tusks and other body parts are highly valued for use in traditional medicine and for decoration.

By far the biggest seizure of elephant tusks in Vietnam occurred in March 2009 when customs officers in Hai Phong discovered nearly seven tons of the goods in a container shipped from Tanzania, a country in East Africa.

Another large seizure was made in June 2012 when customs officers in Ho Chi Minh City found 158 tusks weighing nearly 2.5 tons hidden in 28 wooden boxes in a container imported from Singapore.

According to investigations, the tusks originated in Africa and were valued at around VND100 billion (US$4.8 million).

Vietnam officially banned the trade of elephant tusks in 1992 to discourage people from hunting the country's dwindling population of elephants, which poachers value highly for their tusks.

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