Customs officers at Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh City on Saturday discovered 43.5 kilograms of African elephant tusks hidden in the baggage of two Vietnamese people traveling home from Dubai, Cong An Nhan Dan (People’s Police) newspaper reported on Sunday.
The officers found that two passengers, Nguyen Van Ha and Nguyen Van Hien, from the northern province of Nam Dinh, were showing suspicious signs because they did not declare the imported goods they had brought along after completing entry procedures, the newspaper quoted the customs agency at the airport as saying.
Through an inspection customs officers saw that in addition to personal items, Ha and Hien had hidden 19.2kg and 24.3kg of tusks, respectively, in their luggage.
Both passengers failed to present official papers related to the tusks. Testing later conducted by the southern branch of the Institute of Forensic Science under the Ministry of Public Security showed that the tusks were taken from African elephants.
After being detained, Hien confessed that the two men had been hired to transport the ivory from Dubai to Vietnam.
Currently, Vietnamese authorities are investigating the case.
The trade of tusks is banned under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora as well as Vietnamese law, as African ivory is listed in the World’s Red Book, customs officers said.
Many similar tusk smuggling cases have occurred in recent years in Vietnam, which has banned trade in ivory since 1992 to prevent the hunting of the country's dwindling population of elephants, which poachers value highly for their tusks.
By far the biggest interception of elephant tusks in Vietnam occurred in March 2009 when customs officers in the northern city of Hai Phong seized nearly seven tons of the contraband goods in a container shipped from Tanzania, a country in East Africa.
The international trade in elephant tusks has been prohibited since 1989 after the population of the African giants sharply decreased to some 600,000 by the end of the 1980s from millions in the mid-20th century, AFP reported.