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14 Oct, 2015

Beijing police bust global smuggling ring, $4m wildlife parts seized


Beijing, (China Daily) 2015-10-13 – A three-month police investigation has led to the seizure of a large haul of endangered wildlife parts and the disruption of an international smuggling ring, the Beijing Forest Police Bureau announced on Monday.

Global smuggling ring busted, $4m wildlife parts seized

Confiscated ivory items and carvings are displayed during an ivory destruction ceremony at Beijing’s wildlife rescue and rehabilitation center, in Beijing, May 29, 2015. As many as 660 kg of ivory items and carvings confiscated since 2014 have been crushed by China’s State Forestry Administration (SFA) and General Administration of Customs (GACC). [Photo/IC]

The wildlife trafficking case, which was code-named “May 21”, led to the confiscation of illegal wildlife parts, including 800 kg of raw ivory and related products, 11.3 kg of rhino horn and 35 bear paws.

The total value of the haul is approximately 24 million yuan ($3.85 million).

The announcement came just days after China and the United States made a joint commitment “to take significant and timely steps to halt the domestic commercial trade of ivory” during the recent visit by President Xi Jinping to the US.

Police said the criminal gang behind the trafficking had its own processing factory, warehouses and vehicles for transportation.

The operation uncovered a trafficking ring that stretched from Japan through Hong Kong to the Chinese mainland, where the gang was said to operate a network that ranged from Guangdong to Shandong and Beijing, using antique shops as cover for their operations and using online illegal trading and couriers for distribution.

A total of 16 suspects were arrested in Beijing, Hebei, Guangdong and Shandong provinces, of which 15 have been detained and one has been transferred to Shenzhen police.

During the news conference, the forest police said the criminal operation has grown more diversified, driven by the huge profits.

Since 2013, Beijing forest police have cracked 222 cases involving the illegal wildlife trade and arrested 108 suspects.

A total of 1,321 wildlife products worth approximately 8.11 million yuan, including 1,527 kg of ivory, have been seized.

The forest police said it would like to remind the public not to purchase illegal and endangered wildlife products and to report any suspicious activity to the police.

Police also stressed their commitment to monitor online and physical markets for illegal wildlife sales and to prevent poaching and illegal exploitation of wildlife.

The Trade Records Analysis of Flora and Fauna in Commerce, known by the acronym TRAFFIC, said it is possible all the wildlife products seized originated in Japan, where the popularity of legally owned items such as ivory and rhino horns from the 1980s and earlier has plummeted and people have been selling family heirlooms and other goods into the marketplace.

“This successful operation has helped dismantle an entire smuggling ring and the infrastructure that goes with it,” said Zhou Fei, head of TRAFFIC’s China Program.

“The Beijing forest police operation is a clear demonstration of the Chinese government’s commitment to crack down on illegal wildlife trade and support international efforts to protect endangered species.”