A gang of 17 suspected ivory smugglers have been arrested for possession of 10 elephant tusks, Shenzhen Customs announced during a press conference last Thursday.
The ivory seized is said to be of African origin and weighs about 323.7 kilograms in total. The suspects were attempting to smuggle the illegal animal parts from Hong Kong into the Chinese mainland.
Shenzhen Customs described this as a ‘major ivory-smuggling case’ and said that they became aware of the group’s presence in 2017, when a similar case was being investigated in Zhanjiang, another city in Guangdong.
The group had been using highly stealthy and sophisticated communication lines during their operation, making the case a hard nut to crack. Although customs agents teamed up with police from multiple cities, including Shenzhen, Maoming, Zhuhai, Fuzhou and Hong Kong, it wasn’t until this July, after two raids were carried out, that the joint police force managed to seal off this smuggling channel.
Image via Sina.com
According to the anti-smuggling department of Shenzhen customs, based on the existing evidence, the group is suspected of having smuggled nearly 1 metric ton of ivory, rhino horns and similar products.
Since January 1, 2018, any transaction involving ivory products has been completely banned in China. Despite that, due to the highly profitable nature of the trade, there is still a huge demand for these products on the black market.
As such, China’s General Administration of Customs (GAC) launched the ‘National Sword 2018’ operation earlier this year to crackdown on smuggling activities, making the cessation of smuggling endangered species and their products, ivory included, a top priority.
Meanwhile, Shenzhen customs also announced that they will step up efforts to fully enforce the ban on the ivory trade, according to GAC.
[Cover image via China Daily]