A court in the southern Guangdong province has sentenced a group of 17 people to lengthy prison sentences in what has been described as the country’s “largest ivory smuggling case.”
The Guangzhou Intermediate People’s Court handed life sentence imprisonment to Chen Chengzong and Lin Zhiyong, two defendants in the case, according to the verdict released Tuesday. Meanwhile, the remaining defendants were given prison sentences of two to 15 years and slapped with hefty fines amounting to over 7 million yuan ($1 million).
The group smuggled thousands of pieces of ivory worth more than 1 billion yuan from Nigeria and other countries between July 2013 and August 2018, according to the court. The group had also illegally purchased and sold rhino horns and ivory products worth more than 100,000 yuan in China.
The Guangzhou court said it is “currently the largest ivory smuggling case” in the country.
Wu Guoxiong, director of Shenzhen-based Guanghe Law Firm’s customs law committee, told Sixth Tone that life imprisonment is the strictest penalty for the crime of smuggling products from rare species under China’s criminal law. Referring to Tuesday’s judgement, he said there hasn’t been such a ruling for the crime in the past 10 years.
“The number of smuggled ivory pieces in this case is particularly large, which constitutes a case with especially serious circumstances,” he said.
While all defendants were charged for smuggling products from rare animals, Chen was also involved in purchasing, selling, and transporting them across borders. He was also found to have used fake passports to cross borders 21 times.
Ivory in the form of elephant tusks are highly-prized possession on the black market. The illegal trafficking of the product has threatened the population of African and Asian elephants in recent years.
In a bid to conserve the elephant population and stamp out illegal trafficking, China prohibited the import of ivory and its products in 2016 and then announced a nationwide ban on ivory-carving factories and retailers the same year. Though the ban reduced consumption at home, many Chinese were still found to be purchasing elephant tusks abroad in countries such as Thailand and Cambodia.
Editor: Bibek Bhandari.
(Header image: Seized ivories on display in an unspecified location. From @ 广州市中级人民法院 on WeChat)