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Govt probing ivory consignment saga

18th November 2012
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Minister Khamis Kagasheki

The ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism has said it is working hard to establish key facts to provide answers in connection with 500 pieces of ivory, worth $1.4(Sh2.24 billion) seized by Hong Kong authorities on Friday.

Minister Khamis Kagasheki, in an interview with this paper, said: “I have learnt this incident with embarrassment and this is not only for me but every Tanzanian, especially those in government considering the efforts to stop illegal trade in natural resources”.

He added: “We will definitely take appropriate action; first we want to find out if it is true that the seized consignment was transported from Tanzania, as some of my sources say that it (consignment) originated from Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)… I’ve yet to establish how authentic this information is.”

Kagasheki noted that even if the information were authentic, there is no excuse to let ivory illegally pass through Dar es Salaam Port, which is unacceptable under the law.

DRC, a land-locked country, uses Dar es Salaam Port for most of its exports and imports.

“We have different departments to provide answers… the customs department at the port and the police are just among those key departments.

“I am in touch with the Inspector General of Police, Said Mwema, ministry of Finance and others on the matter, specifically on documents that authorised the consignment out of the country… we hope these efforts will bear fruits,” explained the minister.

Additionally, Kagasheki said his office has asked the Tanzania Embassy in China to arrange a DNA test be taken to establish the tusks’ country of origin.

According to the minister there was suspicion of possible connection between people involved in the Friday consignment and another one, which were also seized in Hong Kong in last month.

He said the fact that both consignments were destined for Hong Kong forms the basis for suspicion, noting that the only difference was the routes they took to reach the destination. Whereas the second was transported through Dubai, the first one used Quanzhou, China.

This is the second time in less than a month for Hong Kong authorities to seize consignments of ivory tusks from Tanzania.

The first consignment reported to be worth $3.45million (Sh5.52 billion) was impounded on October 20.

The tusks and ornaments smuggled from Africa were reported to be among the world's biggest seizures of illicit ivory . Hong Kong and neighbouring Guangdong customs officers seized 1,209 ivory tusks and 1.4 kilogrammes of ivory ornaments in a joint anti-smuggling operation at Kwai Chung container port in the territory earlier last week. The haul of tusks seized, which weighed a total 3.8 tonnes, cost the lives of 600 African elephants,

Minister Kagasheki said while they continue to investigate, the number of seized tusks cast a question on whether they all originated from Tanzania or elsewhere, and Dar es Salaam used merely as a conduit.

SOURCE: GUARDIAN ON SUNDAY