Malaysia: Customs seizes 288kg of pangolin scales worth RM3.8mil

JO TIMBUONG The Star 13 Jun 17;

SEPANG: The Customs Department has seized a 288kg shipment of pangolin scales worth RM3.68mil bound for a fake address in Ampang.

Customs assistant director-general (enforcement) Datuk Paddy Abd Halim said the seizure was made last Friday at an air cargo warehouse at the KLIA Free Trade Zone.

"The consignment came in from Ghana and was marked as oyster shells on the air waybill," he said.

He also said the department is investigating whether the scales were destined for the local or international market.

The scales will be handed over to the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan) for further action.

He said this was the third shipment of pangolin scales intercepted this year.

Last month, the department seized 712kg of pangolin scales worth RM9.18mil in shipments from Ghana and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The import of pangolin scales without a permit is illegal and offenders face a maximum fine of up to 20 times the value of the seized items, jail time not exceeding three years or both.

Pangolin scales are often used in traditional medicine and are believed to be a cure for illnesses such as malaria.

More pangolin scales seized
JO TIMBUONG The Star 14 Jun 17;

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.

Malaysia makes third major pangolin scale seizure in a month
WWF Malaysia 13 Jun 17;

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 13th June 2017–For the third time in just over a month, Malaysian authorities have seized a large shipment of pangolin scales inbound from Africa. This latest seizure brings the total weight of confiscated scales so far to a tonne.

On 9th June the Royal Malaysian Customs Department discovered 288kg of pangolin scales in 12 boxes at the air cargo warehouse in Kuala Lumpur International Airport’s Free Trade Zone. The shipment, originating from Accra, Ghana, was falsely labelled as oyster shells.

Although Malaysia was specified as the final destination, the address in Ampang listed on the airway bill was found to be fake, said Dato’ Paddy Bin Abd Halim, Malaysia’s Customs Assistant Director General for Enforcement, at a press conference today.

No arrests have yet been made and investigations continue under Section 135 (1) (a) of the Customs Act 1967.

The latest seizure marks the third large-scale pangolin scale interception in Malaysia in just over a month, reinforcing previous indications that the country is of significant concern within trafficking trade chains

Last year, TRAFFIC and the University of Adelaide published a study that confirmed the widely-agreed consensus of a dramatic switch from Asian to African pangolin species in trade over a 38-year period between 1977 and 2014. Analysis showed that 79% of the scales recorded in trade since 2010 were from African pangolins.

“Malaysian Customs has intercepted an alarming volume of wildlife contraband from Africa since April this year, and for this we congratulate them,” said Kanitha Krishnasamy, Senior Programme Manager for TRAFFIC in Southeast Asia.

“However, multiple shipments comprising of rhino horns, pangolin scales and live Critically Endangered tortoises – all of them listed in CITES Appendix I – entering Malaysia signifies a very worrying pattern; that traffickers feel they can continuously move their contraband through the country”.

On 2nd May Customs officers at the same airport seized a 408kg shipment from Ghana that transited through Dubai on its way to Kuala Lumpur. A second shipment weighing 304kg from Democratic Republic of Congo that passed through Kenya and Dubai was seized just two days later in Kuala Lumpur. In the previous month, Customs seized 18 rhino horns from Mozambique.

Dato’ Paddy told reporters that although two of the shipments came from Ghana, it did not necessarily mean they were both from the same sender or syndicate.

“We hope this level of enforcement effort will continue,” said Dr Chris R. Shepherd, Regional Director for TRAFFIC in Southeast Asia. “More importantly, investigative work at national and international levels needs to be stepped up to put the perpetrators behind these transactions out of business for good.”

Pangolins are among the most trafficked mammals in the world and the scales remain in high demand for use in traditional medicines, especially in China.

Due to the tremendous pressure from illegal trade, over 180 nations at the CITES[1] summit in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 2016 agreed to a ban of the international trade in all eight pangolin species by listing them on CITES Appendix I.

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