Hong Kong customs officials announced on Saturday the seizure of almost four tonnes of ivory, worth over ¥212m ($3.4m), hidden in shipments from Kenya and Tanzania.
The 1,209 pieces of raw ivory tusk and a small number of ivory ornaments were discovered in two containers marked “plastic scrap” and “roscoco beans”, shipped to Hong Kong earlier this week, a customs official said.
The smuggled ivory, weighing 3.81 tonnes (8,400 pounds) — Hong Kong’s largest ever seizure — was found hidden among bags of plastic scraps and beans by customs officers acting on a tip-off from counterparts in mainland China.
Seven people have been arrested in connection to the smuggled ivory, if convicted they face a possible 9 years in prison and a ¥5.5m fine.
The sale of African elephant ivory has been illegal since 1989 (with some exceptions), but demand for the substance by practitioners of Chinese (and other Asian) traditional medicine, as well as instability in elephant habituating countries like Somalia and DR Congo, has led to a resurgence in ivory smuggling.
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