After sentencing a woman for smuggling ivory, a Beijing court warned residents returning to China to avoid carrying goods that are forbidden by law in to the country.
Beijing No. 4 Intermediate People’s Court sentenced Jiang Meixu, 38, from Jilin province, to six years and six months in prison on Tuesday on the ivory charges. In addition, she was fined 60,000 yuan ($9,420).
Jiang was found carrying six pieces of ivory at Terminal 3 of Beijing Capital International Airport after she returned from Cote d’Ivoire in late 2013. Customs officers seized the products for investigation, according to the court.
After an appraisal, the products in Jiang’s suitcase were verified as ivory barred from trade and transport under the Criminal Law and the Protection of Wildlife Law. The value of the ivory was more than 605,629 yuan, the court found.
Jiang was arrested at a customs checkpoint in Dalian, Liaoning province, on Feb 6 and charged one month later. Verification of the animal parts, as well as confirmation that Jiang transported the items intentionally, cost some time.
Jiang, who runs a barber shop with her mother in Jilin and is raising an 8-year-old girl, said during the trial that the family had about 100,000 yuan in cash, and that she had planned to find a job in Cote d’Ivoire. She also said she went there to see her ex-husband and didn’t buy the ivory with the intention of selling it.
“I thought the ivory was a kind of local product, and I wanted to take it as a souvenir to decorate my home. So I bought them for 20,000 yuan,” she said.
But prosecutor Zhang Xianwu said Jiang had booked a return ticket before arriving in Africa, and noted that she stayed in Cote d’Ivoire only 24 hours.
“It was the first time Jiang went abroad, and she had never collected any artworks before. If she wanted to see her ex-husband and seek a job, why did she book the round-trip ticket and stay there such a short time,” Zhang said. “Jiang took 20,000 yuan for the tickets and 20,000 yuan to buy the ivory, a big portion of her deposit, showing that her carrying of the ivory was intentional.”
Jiang did not give a clear reply to Zhang’s questions and said she now realizes that she did wrong. She said she hoped for a lenient sentence so she could return quickly to her child-rearing responsibilities.
Under the law, smuggler of rare animal products valued at 200,000 to 1 million yuan can face from five to 10 years in prison, the judge, Zhang Yong, said after the trial.
China has been fighting ivory smugglers since the 1990s, and clear rules about forbidden goods are posted at airports. “So the defendant saying that she did not know that carrying ivory was illegal is an excuse,” said Wu Ming’an, a law professor at China University of Political Science and Law.