Two were arrested after Xiamen police seized 96 smuggled elephant tusks, which are estimated to worth around 19.88 million yuan or US$3.21 million, officials said on Monday.
In June 2011, an employee of a Tong’an logistics company accidentally broke a wooden crate when he was handling it and was shocked to see ivory tusks fall out of the crate, which was marked as containing engines.
The police were called, and they discovered a total of 96 ivory tusks weighing 197.8kg in the 6 cartons addressed to a man in Putian city surnamed Wang.
The recipient Wang, 59, turned himself in a few days later, but he claimed he was only a middleman, and didn’t know anything about the ivory tusks.
The police found that Wang was unlikely to have organized the smuggling as he was an illiterate farmer who couldn’t even write his name. They tracked down another man, Wu, the boss of a Putian home furniture manufacturer, through the phone number left on the receipt.
Wu was arrested in Putian and finally confessed that he was the final buyer of the elephant tusks. He said he bought the elephant tusks from abroad for 1.62 million yuan, and intended to use them to make home furniture.
Wu said he asked Wang to act as the recipient and even signed a deal with him that if things went wrong and the crime was discovered he would pay Wang 50,000 yuan a year to do the prison time he was sentenced to.
Both Wu and Wang will be prosecuted for illegally purchasing and smuggling rare and endangered wildlife products, an offence which can receive sentences of up to 10 years in jail in China, the police said.
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