Vietnamese businessman arrested over suspected ivory trade

VIENTIANE (Vientiane Times/ANN) - A Vietnamese businessman suspected of trafficking and trading in elephant ivory was recently arrested in Vientiane, police officers said.

Police raided a wood and furniture workshop owned by the businessman in Xaysettha district of Vientiane and found ivory products, elephant skins and products resembling rhino horns.

The raid was based on a verified tip-off and a report from a citizen about the suspected trafficking, said the Department of Combating Natural Resources and Environmental Crime (DCNEC) under the Ministry of Public Security.

Around 13.5 kg of ivory products and other wildlife organs, including rhino and elephant skins, hidden in several places inside the workshop were confiscated.

The suspect admitted he had committed a crime, an officer involved in the case told Vientiane Times yesterday. An examination suggested the elephant ivory originated in Africa. The ivory was brought into Laos in order to be sent to China, the officer said.

“We are compiling the case to be submitted to prosecutors,” the officer added. The investigation will ascertain whether there is an illegal trafficking network or other persons involved in the trafficking and trading.

The raid was conducted by DCNEC with support from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the World Bank.

If found guilty, the offender will be penalised under Lao laws, law enforcers said. Trafficking, trading, importing and exporting prohibited wildlife is illegal under the laws and regulations of Laos.

In May, Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith issued Executive Order No 5 to strengthen the management and inspection of protected species of fauna and flora in Laos. These include species listed in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of wild fauna and flora (CITES), to which Laos is a state party.

Officials said the order with comprehensive content is an effective reference to facilitate their work to combat illegal trade and trafficking in wildlife and contribute to fulfilling CITES. 

Import, export, transit and trade of both live and dead species of plants and animals, as well as their organs, are all prohibited, according to the order.

Setting up a farm of endangered species for commercial purposes is not allowed. Any such commercial farm must be turned into an open farm (or safari) or a zoo with the purpose of offering ecotourism services or for research purposes.

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