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INTERCEPTED: The consignment, which contained six wooden boxes containing ivory pieces, had been cleared as ‘videography equipment’ weighing 621 kilogrames headed for Singapore.
KAMPALA, Uganda – At least five Entebbe airport security and handling staff are said to be in custody at Entebbe Aviation Police Station following another interception of ivory destined for Singapore in the Far East.
The consignment, which contained six wooden boxes, had been cleared as ‘videography equipment’ weighing 621 kilogrames.
“On a tip off from informers, the Aviation Police insisted before the consignment was loaded on a Turkish Airways Cargo plane that the consignment be rescreened to verify the content and the weight and the screen showed materials appearing like ivory pieces,” said Jossy Muhangi the Uganda Wildlife Authority spokesperson.
Uganda’s Aviation Police, Uganda Wildlife Authority and Aviation security intercepted the consignment on May 28th, with crafted and raw ivory.
It was transferred to Aviation Police where the boxes were opened last week for verification.
According to Muhangi, a total of 258 pieces of raw ivory were found weighing 608 kg. In the same containers were about 24 kilogrames of crafted ivory in form of bungles.
East African Busines Week’s effort to contact Lodovick Awita, the Commandant of Uganda Aviation Police, to confirm the arrests were futile as he did not respond to our calls.
However, sources confirmed the five airport security and handling staff were in custody at the Entebbe Aviation Police Station, awaiting processing and formal charges, for the alleged complicity in concealing the contents of the six boxes.
The Cargo Manager for the Turkish Airways, where the consignment was about to be loaded was also being sought to help police to investigate the source of the consignment.
Sources said it is an open secret that traders in ivory are paying handsome bribes, often worth a year’s salaries or more, for airport officials to look the other way, but in this case, honest Police and Security operatives prevented the shipment from leaving Uganda.
According to a joint United Nations Environment Programme and INTERPOL study published in 2014 reckoned that the trade in illegal African elephant ivory is worth up to $188 million a year, part of an illicit flora and fauna trade – including timber, live animals and rare birds, rhino horn and pelts – worth an astonishing $19 billion a year, making it one of the largest illicit trades on the globe, after narcotics, counterfeit currency, and human trafficking. Such a lucrative business attracts powerful, well-connected and professional criminal networks highly skilled at moving valuable illicit commodities from one side of the world to another. According to US law enforcement officials, the ivory trade has been linked to Irish organized crime, the Russian mob, and the Chinese mafia. Shooting or arresting poachers and seizing consignments of illegal ivory diminishes supply and might push up prices, but it only scrapes at the surface of the trade. Stopping the illegal business altogether means targeting the international criminal syndicates that control it, and that is a more difficult, and sometimes more dangerous, task than stopping poachers.