Ivory-traf­fick­ing syn­di­cate ar­rests

Chi­nese au­thor­i­ties make se­ri­ous dent in in­ter­na­tional smug­gling ring

Cape Times - - PAGE 2 - STAFF WRITER

THREE men said to be in­volved in run­ning a ma­jor in­ter­na­tional ivory smug­gling syn­di­cate have been caught fol­low­ing ac­tion by the China Cus­toms Anti-Smug­gling Bureau.

The trio were first ex­posed in the July 2017 re­port The Shuidong Con­nec­tion: Ex­pos­ing the Global Hub of the Il­le­gal Ivory Trade by the Lon­don-based En­vi­ron­men­tal In­ves­ti­ga­tion Agency (EIA).

After al­most three years of un­der­cover work, EIA in­ves­ti­ga­tors in­fil­trated one of the lead­ing syn­di­cates based in the ob­scure Chi­nese town of Shuidong, said to be a ma­jor Chi­nese hub for poached ivory smug­gled from Africa.

The Shuidong Con­nec­tion iden­ti­fied the three peo­ple said to be the main cul­prits in the syn­di­cate as Wang, Xie and Ou; and the EIA shared its find­ings with the rel­e­vant Chi­nese gov­ern­ment agen­cies in a con­fi­den­tial brief­ing be­fore the re­port’s pub­li­ca­tion.

En­force­ment ac­tion based on that in­tel­li­gence was launched by the lo­cal Anti-Smug­gling Bureau on July 6, 2017, when about 500 of­fi­cers raided lo­ca­tions in Shuidong and sur­round­ing ar­eas.

Wang was caught dur­ing this raid and jailed for 15 years; Xie was lo­cated in Tan­za­nia and vol­un­tar­ily re­turned to face trial, at which was jailed for six years.

Chi­nese au­thor­i­ties have also con­firmed that Ou was repa­tri­ated from Nige­ria to China on Jan­uary 5 un­der an In­ter­pol Red No­tice. He will now face trial in China.

EIA Cam­paigns Di­rec­tor Ju­lian New­man said: “We are very pleased to see such ro­bust en­force­ment ac­tion taken by the Chi­nese au­thor­i­ties in re­sponse to the in­for­ma­tion pro­vided by our in­ves­ti­ga­tors.”

“Dur­ing the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, this syn­di­cate had claimed in­volve­ment in mul­ti­ple ship­ments of il­le­gal ivory from Africa to China, and had been di­rectly in­volved in the trade for years, so dis­man­tling the op­er­a­tion has put a ma­jor dent in global il­le­gal ivory traf­fick­ing op­er­a­tions.”

Ac­tion by the China Cus­toms Anti-Smug­gling Bureau based on EIA’s in­tel­li­gence has now led to the dis­man­tling of two ivory traf­fick­ing syn­di­cates span­ning Guang­dong and Fu­jian prov­ince, in south­ern China.

By Fe­bru­ary 2018, 11 sus­pects had been con­victed by the lo­cal court, with jail sen­tences rang­ing from six to 15 years’ im­pris­on­ment.

“EIA ap­plauds this achieve­ment; the Chi­nese au­thor­i­ties are to be con­grat­u­lated for their col­lab­o­ra­tive and co-or­di­nated ap­proach,” New­man added.

Mean­while, En­vi­ron­men­tal Af­fairs Min­is­ter Nomvula Mokonyane has wel­comed the re­cov­ery of more than 30 pieces of rhino horn at OR Tambo In­ter­na­tional Air­port last Wed­nes­day.

“The dis­cov­ery and seizure of the rhino horn, es­ti­mated to be worth more than R23 mil­lion, is a feather in the cap of en­force­ment agen­cies work­ing to rid the air­port, and our coun­try, of wildlife-re­lated crimes,” Mokonyane said.

Po­lice an­nounced that the seizure was part of an op­er­a­tion into rid­ding the air­port of crim­i­nal ac­tiv­i­ties fol­low­ing the re­cent con­fis­ca­tion of rhino horn orig­i­nat­ing from south­ern Africa in the Far East.

“The ac­tions of the mul­ti­dis­ci­plinary team, com­pris­ing mem­bers of the po­lice, the Depart­ment of En­vi­ron­men­tal Af­fairs’ En­vi­ron­men­tal Man­age­ment In­spec­torate (Green Scor­pi­ons), cus­toms and ex­cise, K9 units and ACSA se­cu­rity are to be com­mended.

“Their suc­cess­ful ef­forts to rid our ports of en­try and exit of wildlife smug­gling in par­tic­u­lar are an in­di­ca­tion of the suc­cess of the In­te­grated Strate­gic Man­age­ment of Rhi­noc­eros ap­proach,” Mokonyane said.

REUTERS

THREE men said to be in­volved in run­ning a ma­jor in­ter­na­tional ivory smug­gling syn­di­cate have been caught fol­low­ing ac­tion by the China Cus­toms Anti-Smug­gling Bureau. |

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