Bangkok, Jul 17 – Thailand has seized nearly half a tonne of ivory worth an estimated $725,000 smuggled from Kenya in boxes labelled handicrafts, a senior customs officer at Bangkok’s main airport said Tuesday.
Some 160 pieces of ivory, weighing 456 kilogrammes, were found in a random search in six wooden boxes on a jet from Kenya — a hub for smuggled ivory — according to Tawal Rodjit, director of customs at Suvarnabhumi airport.
“The boxes/chests were from Kenya… the items had been labelled ‘Goods to Declare’ as handicrafts,” he said, adding he believed the ivory was destined to be converted into accessories.
The July 13 seizure of the boxes, which were addressed to a fake company in Thailand, is the third haul of ivory being smuggled in or out of the country through the airport since January, he added.
Police have launched a probe into the seizure, which breaks international laws on trafficking endangered species or their parts.
“The penalty is up to 10 years imprisonment and a fine four times the value of the items seized,” Tawal added.
Experts say traffickers use Thailand to smuggle ivory, rough or carved, into nearby China — where it is ground up in traditional medicine — and Japan. But some also ends up in the United States and Europe.