Earlier this morning officials from the SARS Customs Anti-Smuggling team at the Beitbridge border post apprehended two Kenyan nationals. The suspects, two females, were handed over to the South African Police Service (SAPS) to be charged criminally after being found in possession of ivory. It is suspected that, amongst others, they wanted to smuggle ivory jewellery items into South Africa.
The two women were on their way to Johannesburg by bus. During a physical search of the bus around 07:00 am, numerous undeclared goods were found including 11.8 kg of ivory. Other items not declared to Customs at the border post were wooden curios, copper jewellery and shoes.
Initially none of the passengers wanted to claim ownership of the undeclared items. The two Kenyan suspects were found in possession of other ivory items as they were busy making jewellery made of ivory beads. The driver of the bus and the suspects? boarding tickets confirmed that the undeclared items belonged to them.
Trade in ivory is strictly forbidden in terms of the CITES convention. Today's confiscation of ivory is the fourth incident in 8 months at Beitbridge and SARS Customs officials believe that the illicit trade in ivory, a result of the illegal culling of elephants as well as the illegal poaching of other animal species, is still widespread in sub-Saharan Africa.
In terms of the CITES convention ivory cannot be sold commercially. The value of the ivory goods confiscated is estimated to amount to R110 000.
Nature conservation authorities were also informed about the arrests and will in all likelihood press further charges against the suspects since it is clear that the ivory products were made of elephant tusks.
The suspects are expected to appear in the Musina magistrate's court tomorrow, Thursday, 5 August 2004.
ISSUED BY THE COMMISSIONER FOR THE SOUTH AFRICAN REVENUE SERVICE