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Contraband Ivory Still At Customs

By Nirmala Kannangara

The shipment of contraband blood ivory that was seized by Sri Lanka Customs in May 2012 while being transshipped to Dubai from Tanzania are still lying at Customs warehouse, Customs officials said.

This shipment of 359 elephant tusks, which is believed to have been removed from poached African elephants in Kenya, were to be handed over to a powerful politician in the previous regime, but was prevented by the Customs Department as it was against the  country’s obligations under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

“When we confiscated this shipment of contraband blood ivory, there were three options that we would have followed. Either we had to dispose the stock publicly or give for education purposes and the rest to keep in our stores or to send the consignment to the port of origin. But since these were smuggled ivory and there wasn’t an address given, we could not re-send the shipment,” said the official.

However he said that the Customs Department was shocked to learn how a powerful politician wanted to hand over this stock to a company in Wattala at a time when CITES wanted the stock to be destroyed in public.

“Being a signatory to the convention, we have to work in accordance with CITES. This politician wanted to smuggle out the contraband blood ivory from Customs to a company in Wattala with plans to sell them to a foreign country. As we knew that the Interpol carried out a DNA test and if this stock was exported we could not have faced the international authorities,” sources added.

According to the sources, the then government had sent a letter to the Customs Department requesting to release the consignment to offer them to Buddhist Temples in the country.

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