By Stephen Wandera
NAKAWA, Uganda Revenue Uganda (URA) on investigating a racket of Vietnam nationals allegedly involved in smuggling of ivory and pangolin scales. According to a public notice issued Monday February 11th, 2019 the eighteen foreigners are implicated in a consignment recently impounded hidden in timber.
“The following persons whose photographs appear below are wanted by URA in connection to the ongoing investigations of a case of smuggling and possession of prohibited goods (ivory and pangolin scales) concealed in timber contrary to section200 & 202 of the East Africa Community Customs Management Act 2014,” reads the public notice.
It further reads, “We appeal to anyone with information leading to their arrest to connect Customs Intelligence Unit on 256, 772141090, 265 772140366, 080011700, URA facebook page or twiter @URAuganda. Reward awaits.”
Two Vietnam nationals – Dhan Yan Chiew and Nguyen Son Dong, were found in possession of the exhibits and have been remanded to Luzira, for smuggling hundreds of ivory pieces and thousands of pangolin scales. The arrests follows URA starting to reap the results from the introduction of Non-intrusive Cargo Inspection (NII) scanning technology that this week, uncovered a major regional poaching racket.
Officers at the Elegu Uganda–South Sudan border crossing discovered and impounded over 2,000 pieces of ivory and Pangolin scales in three containers concealed in logs of wood and wax, in transit from the Democratic Republic of Congo to Asia.
Currently, 750 pieces of ivory and thousands of pangolin scales had been verified at the URA’s new headquarters in Kampala, where the items had been transferred to. The process is still underway.
The scale of the haul is huge, as for 750 pieces of ivory to be amassed, 325 elephants will have been killed.
It was not known for how long this smuggling racket has been taking place via that particular border point. A kilogram of the poached items costs well over $1000 in Asia.
Some 30,000 African elephants are believed to be illegally killed each year for their ivory tusks, mainly to satisfy demand in the Asian market for products coveted as a traditional medicine or as status symbols. Uganda is a key transit country for the illegal trade.