China seized 358 metric tons of endangered plants and animal parts, including ivory and rhinoceros horns, in 160 cases between January and November, up 7 percent year-on-year, the General Administration of Customs said on Thursday.
Yu Guangzhou, minister of the GAC, said customs has launched five operations this year to fight the smuggling of endangered species, agricultural products, dutiable goods such as alcohol and cigarettes, hazardous waste, and drugs and guns. The operations aim to maintain a tough posture against smuggling to ensure national security, Yu said.
Customs in Xiamen, Fujian province, intercepted 118.8 kilograms of ivory in September that was labeled by smugglers as sandalwood.
Police also busted a smuggling ring that hid pangolin scales and ivory beneath frozen fish. About 970 kg of pangolin scales and 307 kg of ivory were seized last month in Fangchenggang in the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region.
The GAC will continue to work with international law enforcement agencies to tackle criminal activities such as drug smuggling via e-commerce, the importing of counterfeit goods and infringements of intellectual property rights.
Yu said the joint operation known as Operation Cobra III, which was conducted in May and targeted cross-border smuggling and the illegal trading of wildlife products, was a huge success.
The joint operation, which involved 64 countries and organizations across Asia, Africa, Europe and North America, resulted in the confiscation this year of 12 metric tons of ivory, 187 kg of rhinoceros horns, 5.2 metric tons of pangolin scales, 1 metric ton of eel, over 2,000 metric tons of rosewood and many other rare and endangered species.
More than 200 smugglers were arrested in over 300 cases. This was the third China-proposed international operation of its kind, following similar ones in 2013 and last year.
Huang Songping, spokesman for the GAC, said: “To facilitate trade in a healthy way, we have deployed more resources and manpower to crack down on such criminal activities this year, and are working with the law enforcement branch of the State Oceanic Administration to crack down on smuggling vessels in the offshore area beginning this month.”
Overall, customs data showed that 1,168 of 2,088 cases involving the interception of smuggled goods between January and November, involved the evasion of tariffs and taxes totaling 8.84 billion yuan ($1.36 billion).