- A Da Nang court, on February 21st, 2023, sentenced Nguyen Duc Tai to 13 years in prison for his role in trafficking 10 tonnes of endangered animal parts from Africa.
- He had been previously arrested on June 22, 2022 and may have been in custody since that time. The charges for which he was convicted relate specifically to two seizures:
- On July 18th, 2021, Da Nang authorities seized a container in which was found 138 kg of rhino horn and 3.1 tonnes of lion bones. The shipment had originated from South Africa and was declared to be timber.
- On or about January 5th, 2022, Da Nang authorities seized a container from Nigeria found to be holding 456 kg of ivory and 6200 kg of pangolin scales. The cover load for the shipment was cashew nuts.
- Police described Nguyen Duc Tai as one who was running the shell companies being used to smuggle wild animal parts from Africa.
- See below for stories on the above seizures and his 2022 arrest.
Vietnam jails trafficker for 13 years over 10-tonne haul of ivory, rhino horn
HANOI, Feb 21 (Reuters) – A court in Vietnam on Tuesday sentenced a man to 13 years in prison for trafficking nearly 10 tonnes of endangered animal parts from Africa, including ivory and rhino horns, police said.
The court in the central coastal city of Danang found Nguyen Duc Tai, 33, guilty of transporting elephant tusks, ivory, pangolin scales and lion bones from Africa to Vietnam in 2021, the police-run ministry of public security said.
Trade in ivory is illegal in Vietnam but wildlife trafficking remains widespread.
The country is a transit point for elephant ivory for consumers in mostly China and the United States and Vietnam is a major consumer of rhino horn, which many believe to have medicinal value.
Earlier this month, 600 kg of ivory smuggled from Africa was seized at two ports in Vietnam’s northern city of Haiphong, one of which weighed nearly 500 kg, the country’s biggest seizure in more than four years.
Bui Thi Ha, deputy director or wildlife protection group ENV, or the Centre for Nature Education, said Tai’s conviction on Tuesday was a rare case where authorities had successfully convicted someone for criminal liability in wildlife trafficking.
“Although it is very regrettable that we have been unable to find and prosecute the real people behind this shipment of nearly 10 tonnes of wild animals, the initial success of the Danang city’s prosecutors … is remarkable, worthy of being an example for others,” Ha said in an email.
Reporting by Khanh Vu; Writing by Martin Petty; Editing by Alex Richardson
Man arrested for trading rhino horns, ivory through shell companies
By Ngoc Truong June 22, 2022 | 11:40 pm PT
The Da Nang City police have arrested a man running shell companies to allegedly smuggle wild animal parts from Africa to Vietnam.
Nguyen Duc Tai, 33, is under investigation for “violating regulations on management and protection of endangered, precious and rare animals.”
The Police Division for Corruption, Smuggling and Economics Crimes made the arrest on Wednesday after monitoring his activities for over a year.
Early last year they had placed several suspects under surveillance after discovering they had used fake ID cards to set up companies.
The companies are all registered to import and export goods but the police could not identify their headquarters or see them undertake any other activity except importing goods from Africa.
In July last year the economic police division checked a consignment declared as containing wooden floors imported from South Africa by one of the companies set up by the group, and found inside 52 rhino horns weighing more than 138 kilograms and lion bones weighing 3.1 tons.
In January authorities inspected a container imported from Nigeria purportedly with cashew nuts and found 456 kg of ivory and 6.23 tons of pangolin scales.
An investigation into the companies by the police identified Tai as the leader of the ring.
A search of his residence turned up a bag of pangolin scales he had kept as a sample to show buyers.
The police said it was one of the biggest transnational wildlife trafficking cases ever busted.
Vietnam is a major hub for the illegal trade of wildlife and animal parts.
In many cases, after being imported into Vietnam, the goods are sold to China, Laos and Cambodia at prices of around $100,000 for a kilogram of rhino horns, $3,000 for ivory and $300 for pangolin scales.
Vietnam seizes over 6 tonnes of suspected ivory, pangolin scales smuggled from Nigeria
January 14th, 2022: More than 6.6 metric tons of suspected ivory and pangolin scales were seized by customs officers from a suspicious container recently shipped from Nigeria to Tien Sa Port in Da Nang, Vietnam.
The customs declaration claimed its contents to be cashew nuts, but upon opening the container, officers found suspected endangered animal parts, including 456 kilograms of ivory and around 6.2 metric tons of pangolin scales, local customs officials reported on Thursday.
The discovery was made during an inspection on Tuesday after customs officers at the port declared the container, which arrived at Tien Sa on January 5, as ‘suspicious.’
The Da Nang customs, in conjunction with other relevant agencies, have launched an investigation into the alleged smuggling.
They are currently tracking the enterprises and individuals responsible for the container.
Those involved in the case will be prosecuted, radio station Voice of Vietnam cited Tran Van Anh, deputy detector of the Da Nang Customs Department.
Endangered wildlife products are strictly banned from being traded in, imported to or exported from Vietnam as they are protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), to which the country has been party since 1994.
Several cases of smuggling wildlife products have been detected at Tien Sa Port in recent years, all shipped from Africa.
In October 2018, local customs officers found some six metric tons of pangolin scales and around two metric tons of tusks stashed among recycled plastics in a container also consigned from Nigeria.
In March 2019, more than 9.1 metric tons of ivory was discovered in a shipment delivered from the Congo, with the tusks hidden among timber.
In July 2021, a shipment declared as wood but containing 138 kilograms of rhino horn and around 3.1 metric tons of wildlife bones arrived at the port from South Africa.
Vinh Tho / Tuoi Tre News
Unwanted lions: Vietnam sting operation suggests slaughter of farmed lions in South Africa is under way
by Don Pinnock 19 July 2021
The mass culling of lions in South Africa may be taking place after the government’s plan to shut down lion farms.
A container from South Africa containing 138kg of rhino horn and more than three tonnes of lion bones was seized in the port of Da Nang, Vietnam, at the weekend.
It was opened by customs officials on Sunday in the port of Tien Sa. They had been working with the Vietnamese ministry of trade’s anti-smuggling department.
Unpacking the container in the port of Tien Sa. (Photo: Cong An Police Agency)
The officials were investigating a trafficking route and were watching a shipping line suspected of transporting rhino horn and lion bones. They set up a sting and opened the container.
According to the Ho Chi Minh police agency Cong An, the horns and bones were packed in cartons of different sizes and wrapped with nylon rope. The consignment was labelled as wood.
The average weight of a lion skeleton is nine kilograms and a pair of rhino horns averages three kilograms. So the consignment equals the death of 333 lions and 46 rhinos. It’s unlikely to be the only container of bones and horn illegally shipped to Vietnam this year, though its detection may halt movement for a while until an alternative route is found.
The discovery of the lion bones suggests that breeders in SA may be scrambling to slaughter their animals before their operations are shut down. When it became clear that deliberations in the Department of Environment’s High Level Panel were moving towards shutting down lion farming, it was speculated that breeders might monetise their animals as fast as possible by selling their carcasses into the Asian market, which uses them for trinkets and fake tiger bone wine.
The policy paper which emerged from the panel confirmed the government’s intention to shut down lion farming, along with lion petting and canned lion hunts.
The report left little wiggle room for breeders, who it said were bringing South Africa into disrepute internationally, which was bad for tourism. It also noted that many cultures in South Africa identified and were spiritually aligned with lions and the captive breeding of lions was therefore “culturally dispossessing” of this value to communities.
“The captive lion industry does not represent ecologically sustainable use, providing very little economic activity or jobs,” it states, “while benefiting a few relative to the other components of the sector. There are major concerns over work conditions and safety of workers and tourists and zoonotic risks including from Covid-19.”
The industry, it said, did not contribute meaningfully to transformation or to the conservation of wild lions. Furthermore, the trade in lion derivatives posed major risks to wild lion populations and stimulated illegal trade.
“Rewilding of captive lions is not feasible from conservation principles and captive breeding is currently not necessary for conservation purposes.”
However, the policy made no plans for the future of an estimated 10,000 lions on breeding farms, many in poor condition, bred only for their bones destined for Asian markets. They have no conservation value.
So, without an interim plan to deal with thousands of unwanted lions, conservation organisations warned that their mass slaughter was likely. Without legal export quotas, it was probable that their bones would be filtered into the illegal market.
The container of contraband animal parts in Da Nang suggests this process is under way. DM/OBP