SEPANG: The Customs Department’s largest seizure of pangolin scales last month has not deterred wildlife smugglers from trying to sneak in another batch of the illicit cargo through the Kuala Lumpur International Airport.
Smugglers tried to hoodwink enforcers by labelling the consignment as oyster shells on the airway bill and gave a fake address. However, their attempt to avoid detection was foiled after Customs officers received a tip-off.
Last Friday morning, enforcers found 288kg of the scales packed in gunny sacks and inside 12 cardboard boxes in an air cargo warehouse at the KLIA Free Trade Zone.
Customs Department assistant director-general (enforcement) Datuk Paddy Abd Halim said the scales were worth about RM3.68mil.
“This is the third seizure of pangolin scales at KLIA this year after last month’s operations,” he told reporters.
He said the scales came from Ghana and were addressed to a bogus location in Ampang.
Despite Kuala Lumpur being marked as the final destination, enforcers were unsure whether they were destined for the local or international market.
Paddy said enforcers were trying to determine whether a different syndicate was behind the latest smuggling attempt.
“The modus operandi seems to be the same but a different syndicate could be behind this new attempt. This is also part of our investigation,” he said.
Paddy said the scales would be handed over to the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan) for further action.
The import of pangolin scales without a permit is illegal under Schedule Three of the International Trade Act on Threatened Species 2008.
The case is being investigated under Section 135(1) of the Customs Act 1967 for smuggling prohibited goods.
Offenders could face a maximum fine up to 20 times the value of the seized items or jail time not exceeding three years or both.
Last month, Customs seized 712kg of the scales worth at least RM9.18mil, which came from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Ghana.
A full-grown pangolin is said to have about 500g of scales which can fetch more than RM1,000 in the black market.
“Pangolin scales are used in traditional medicine to treat various ailments but there are no scientific facts to back this claim,” Paddy added.