Customs in the dark over smuggling of elephant tusk

KOTA KINABALU: State Customs is doubtful that a 2.7kg elephant tusk seized in Indonesia was smuggled through its checks at the passenger ferry terminal in Tawau.

“Our officers would have noticed the ivory if it passed through our checkpoint in Tawau,” Sabah Customs and Excise Department director Datuk Janathan Kandok said.

He said this to reporters when asked to comment about the arrest of 50-year-old Indonesian worker in possession of the ivory by Nunukan customs personnel shortly after he arrived from Tawau on a passenger ferry on July 20.

“We would have spotted it, if it had to passed through our checkpoint,” he told reporters here.

Janathan, however, said that the Customs did not receive any information about the alleged smuggling of the ivory tusk but would investigate the matter.

He said there was a possibility that the ivory did not pass through the normal channel as they carried out thorough checks on people passing through such checkpoints.

Indonesian customs officials in North Kalimantan said they spotted the ivory when a bag was scanned through their X-ray machine.

The suspect, an Indonesian worker returning to his homeland in Timur Nusa Tenggara, had told both Indonesian customs and police that he bought the tusk for RM1,500 in Kota Kinabalu. It was for traditional and customary use.

Sabah Wildlife Department director Augustine Tuuga told The Star on Wednesday that they were informed of the arrests but the leads given were not enough for them to locate the source of the ivory tusk.

The case is the second incident where Nunukan custom officials detected ivory being brought in from Sabah.

On Jan 13, a woman found with five pieces of tusk. She was let off but later rearrested in May.

Conservationists believe that the tusk was most probably from the endangered Bornean Pygmy elephants found in the east coast of Sabah. But it was difficult to pinpoint when or where it could have been taken from.

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