Zimbabwean ivory smugglers arrested in Hong Kong

TWO travellers from Zimbabwe were arrested at Hong Kong International Airport yesterday after 36kg of suspected ivory products were discovered in their luggage.

The two men, aged 29 and 47, were intercepted as they arrived in the city from Harare via Dubai yesterday morning.

"During customs clearance, customs officers found about 19kg of suspected ivory products concealed in a tailor-made vest inside the hand luggage of the 47-year-old man," the Customs and Excise Department said.

"About 17kg of suspect ivory products in total were found in the hand luggage of the 29-year-old man."

The haul was estimated to be worth about HK$360,000 in Hong Kong, according to the department.

Customs officers handed the case to the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department for further investigation. The department oversees matters relating to ivory.

By law, anyone found guilty of importing an endangered species without a licence is liable to a maximum fine of HK$5 million and two years in jail.

The seizure was the latest in a string of such cases.

In September, customs officers detected four cases of ivory smuggling at the airport.

On September 29, a man, 26, from Nigeria was arrested, and 16kg of suspected cut ivory stashed inside the pockets of a tailor-made vest and underpants were found in his luggage when he arrived in the city. The haul was worth about HK$160,000.

On September 25, officers seized 13kg of suspected ivory products valued at about HK$130,000 and arrested a 27-year-old man from Zimbabwe at the airport.

On September 6, officers confiscated 51kg of suspected cut ivory pieces worth HK$510,000 hidden in two airmail parcels that had arrived from Zimbabwe via Amsterdam.

On September 2, another 24kg of suspected ivory worth about HK$240,000 was found hidden in a parcel arriving through the same locations.

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