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Vietnam seizes 2 tons of smuggled elephant tusks

Thursday, October 10, 2013, 12:41 GMT+7

More than 2 tons of ivory tusks, hidden inside a container imported from Malaysia, were found by customs authorities in the northern port city of Hai Phong.

>> HCMC seizes ivory artifacts trafficked from France>> Men held for smuggling 158 tusks worth $5 mil >> Wanted gambler seized for smuggling elephant tusks Nguyen Kien Giang, director of division 3 of Hai Phong Customs, said on Wednesday that after noticing the suspicious looking container, customs officers decided to scan and open it for inspection last week. The customs declaration for the 40’ container claimed it held 27.5 tons of sea shells, but in fact, it was packed with elephant tusks and other goods banned from importation. Each of these tusks were cut into three or four pieces, customs officer said. The writer of the declaration is the 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.

The value of the tusks has yet to determined, but customs officers said a haul of 769 kg ivory tusks in Hong Kong had an estimated sale price of US$1.49 million last week.

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. The importers had previously said in a customs declaration that they would import 24 tons of raw salted cow skin worth $57,375 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 hunting of the country's dwindling population of elephants, which poachers value highly for their tusks.

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