Thursday, December 22, 2011

Sh200m ivory haul impounded at port

By BOZO JENJE [email protected] and GITONGA MARETE gma[email protected]

A haul of 727 elephant tusks valued at more than Sh200 million was on Thursday seized at Mombasa port.

The tusks were concealed in a 20-foot container destined for Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.

The cargo had been declared as 126 bags of plastic chips.

Detectives from the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA), Kenya Wildlife Service and police said it was one of the largest seizures.

Three weeks ago, some 465 tusks valued at Sh158 million were impounded at the port.

Since January, there has been more than 10 cases of intercepted ivory being smuggled out at the Mombasa port, Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and other towns.

In less than two months, three containers have been seized at the Mombasa port and one in the high seas on its way to Cambodia after KRA issued an international alert.

While the 465 tusks were declared as soapstone handcraft and packed in 60 cartons and wooden crates, the 727 tusks were concealed in gunny bags stuffed with plastics.

Police said the exporter was the same one who had attempted to ship out the 465 tusks but this time used Mombasa based Coast Sea Ltd Freighters.

The importer was Samsin International General Trading in Dubai.

KRA deputy commissioner Rose Gachiri said they scanned the container and found it loaded with tusks.

“We then got a court order on Friday and invited Kenya Wildlife Services to witness the opening,” she said.

So far no suspect has been arrested. Another container suspected to be carrying contraband, is at the port awaiting verification.

Case against poaching

Kenya made a strong point against poaching and illegal ivory trade in July this year when President Kibaki burnt nearly 5,000 tonnes of stockpiled ivory seized in Singapore nearly a decade ago, which was smuggled from Malawi, Tanzania and Zambia.

The destruction followed an agreement reached by Malawi, Tanzania and Kenya under the Lusaka Agreement Task Force.

The task force is charged with implementing the 1992 Lusaka Agreement designed to help African law enforcement agencies tackle wildlife smuggling.

More than 472,269 elephants roam Africa’s wild, but their survival is threatened by poaching and illegal trade in game trophy.

Kenya has become a transit point for ivory exports to the Far East.

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