Former Immigration Officer at Beijing International Border Inspection, sir named Zhu received a 3-year suspended prison sentence for helping Chinese passenger LI Hongli returning from Africa to smuggle ivory products into the country. Their interaction was observed in a controlled-delivery operation by Customs. They were caught at the Custom Inspection point at Beijing International Airport, trying to smuggle 12.98 kg of ivory. Li was sentenced to 5 years in prison. The sentences were handed out by Beijing Mid-Level Third Court.
In August 2013, 37-year old Li went to Kenya to watch the wildlife migration. From Kenya he went on to Burundi, where he found ivory for sale on the markets. Knowing that it is illegal to take ivory back to China, he was attracted by the low price. He purchased necklaces, bracelets, name seals, chess sets and statues made of ivory, spending $3000.
Li’s contacts back home helped him find Zhu who has access to secure areas at Beijing Airport. She agreed to help Li. On September 6, 2013, upon arrival at Beijing airport, Li met Zhu at the luggage carousel and gave her a piece of his checked luggage to clear Customs. Unbeknownst to them, Customs had inspected the plane cargo when it landed and identified the two pieces of luggage suspected of containing ivory. They followed the pair and caught them red handed when Zhu try to evade X-ray inspection of the luggage using her airport special pass.
One of the arguments used by Li’s defense lawyer was that there is a legal domestic ivory market in Burundi. Li’s purchase of ivory was legal. And that he intended to use the ivory for the purpose of personal use and gifting, not for sale. Zhu received a suspended sentence because she pleaded guilty, claimed not knowing the exact amount of the contraband and was only an accomplice to the crime.