Two Vietnamese arrested with illegal ivory and pangolin scales

Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) has arrested two Vietnamese nationals with about 2,000 pieces of smuggled ivory and pangolin scales disguised as timber. Dhan Yan Chiew and Nguyen Son Dong were arrested at the Elegu boarder point, attempting to cross into South Sudan with three containers stacked elephant tusks and pangolin scales disguised as wood in transit to Vietnam.

The racket poured molten wax into hollow plunks of wood and stashed hundreds of ivory and pangolin scales into the wax. They then covered the hollow plunks with well shaped pieces of wood, and used saw dust to cover lines where lids joined the hollow plunks.

Basing on intelligence information gathered about suspicious cargo in the containers, the customs team covertly tailed the three trucks as they snaked their way across Uganda until they were intercepted at Elegu to verify the suspicions.

The Vietnamese suspects at URA headquarters

“The mobile Non-Intrusive Inspection (NII) scanner confirmed something unusual tucked away in a trio of 20 ft containers which crossed from DR Congo into Uganda carrying logs of timber.  Timber was the declared item in transit but the scanner seemed to disagree,” said Dickson Kateshumbwa, the Commissioner Customs at URA.

The vehicles containing the contraband and the suspects were transferred to URA headquarters at Nakawa, Kampala for “offence management.”

At Nakawa, URA staffers used hammers to unbox the logs of wood which revealed bricks of wax. The wax was then molten to extract the ivory and scales.

By 6pm, about 750 pieces of ivory and thousands of pangolin scales had been verified.

“For 750 pieces of ivory to be amassed, 325 elephants have to lose their lives. Thousands of pangolins  too. This is the cost of poaching on Africa’s wild life,” Kateshumbwa said.

Elephants are one of the most poached mammals the world over for their tusks but pangolins are on high demand in Asia for their scales. Ivory and pangolin scales are listed among prohibited trade items.