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M'sian customs officers not out-smarted by ivory smugglers

Publication Date : 28-07-2013


Ivory smugglers who use Malaysia as a transit point have been trying to pass off elephant tusks as packages of peanuts, salted fish and other sundry goods to elude the Customs Department.

But the department was on alert and has foiled numerous attempts by the ivory traffickers to send their goods to a third country.

Customs director-general Khazali Ahmad said between 2011 and March this year, the department had uncovered 10 such cases.

He said between January and March there were three cases, adding that traffickers marked “Export to Malaysia” in their declaration documents but amended them later to throw off the authorities.

Warning to the traffickers not to take his officers for fools, Khazali said, “We have scanners to see whether what you’ve declared is actually what comes in. So don’t try to trick us by declaring illegal ivory as peanuts, salted fish or whatever.

“Our officers stationed at entry points are smart and they will check if they feel that something is amiss. For example, if you declare that a container of salted fish weighs more than 30 tonnes, our officers will know it’s ridiculous,” he told The Star.

Stressing that Malaysians had no interest in ivory, he said recent foreign reports gave the impression that it was meant for sale here.

“Our people are not willing to pay so much for ivory and the country is absolutely against the illegal trade. There is simply no demand for ivory in Malaysia,” he added.

He said an international initiative was needed to eradicate ivory trafficking.

“We hope that our foreign counterparts will work closely with us to ensure that all efforts to use the country as a transit hub are foiled. There is also a need to nip the ivory trade in the bud. We must go after the poachers,” he added.

Officials at Kenya’s Mombasa port recently seized more than three tonnes of illegal ivory disguised as peanuts for export to Malaysia, the second such seizure there in less than a week, said a recent report.

The ivory was seized on July 8 and had been declared as 240 bags of peanuts, Kenya Wildlife Service spokesman Paul Mbugua said. The contraband was worth more than US$700,000, the biggest seizure in the country so far this year.

Although Malaysia does not have a demand for ivory, the country has been increasingly used as a transit point for the movement of the tusks to places where they are in demand, particularly China.

Last year, the Secretariat of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) listed Malaysia as part of a primary group of eight countries heavily affected by the illegal ivory trade.

The others were China, Kenya, the Philippines, Thailand, Uganda, the United Republic of Tanzania and Vietnam.


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