July 27, 2017

Another Vietnamese Ivory Smuggler is Nabbed at KLIA

Another Vietnamese Ivory Smuggler is Nabbed at KLIA

The tusks of poached African elephants continue to be smuggled into Asia, often via Malaysia. Photo Credit: Flickr

And on and on it goes. The smuggling of ivory into and out of Malaysia, that is.

Exasperating? You bet.

Encouragingly, however, Malaysian officials tend to be on the ball and keep making arrest. The latest such arrest has involved that of a Vietnamese national who was trying to take 36kg of partially processed elephant tusks out of the country via Kuala Lumpur International Airport. The tusks, which had been cut up, tied up into 10 packages and packed into two suitcases, would have been worth around RM300,000 (US$70,000) on the black market.

The Vietnamese smuggler had brought the African elephant tusks from Addis Ababa, using Malaysia as a stopover. If convicted of trafficking, he is facing up to three years in jail and a hefty fine under Section 135 (1) (a) of the Customs Act 1967 for illegal importing prohibited goods into the country.

A Malaysian Customs officer displays the ivory contents of one of the two suitcases seized from a Vietnamese trafficker at Kuala Lumpur International Airport. Photo Credit: TRAFFIC

This latest case serves as yet another reminder that Malaysia continues to remain a hub for international ivory traffickers, several of whom are Vietnamese. In March last year Malaysian customs officials intercepted two Vietnamese men who were found to have 101kg of ivory inside their luggage. The same day officials discovered another haul of elephant tusks, amounting to 58 kilograms, in the bag of another Vietnamese passenger who had just flown in from Addis Ababa in Ethiopia and was on his way to Hanoi.

But it’s a two-way street. Just as illicit shipments of ivory are brought into Malaysia, so other shipments are taken elsewhere from here. Only a couple of weeks ago customs officials in Hong Kong discovered 7,200kg of elephant tusks shipped in from Africa via Malaysia. Valued at around US$9 million, it was the largest haul of contraband ivory seized in Hong Kong in three decades.

“A string of recent seizures in Malaysia has put a spotlight on wildlife trafficking between Africa and Asia,” explains the anti-wildlife trafficking watchdog TRAFFIC. “[It] shows that illegal traders continue to use Malaysia when smuggling wildlife products into and through Asia,” said the group’s Acting Regional Director for Southeast Asia, Kanitha Krishnasamy. “It is important that African, Malaysian and Vietnamese authorities to work together to break the links in this cross-continental illegal wildlife trade.”



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