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Man faces 5 years' jail for bringing in ivory

By Li Qian (Shanghai Daily)

09:28, March 08, 2012

A MAN who bought more than 10 kilograms of ivory and six scales of pangolins worth more than 220,000 yuan (US$34,826) during a trip to Angola may face more than five years in prison on charges of wildlife smuggling.

The construction company employer surnamed Tan argued he purchased African ivory, listed as a legal commodity in Angola, as gift for his friends rather than for resale, according to the trial at the Intermediate People's court in Hangzhou, capital of east China's Zhejiang Province.

"I thought the most serious punishment for me would be huge fines," Tan admitted during Tuesday's trial. However, prosecutors suggested the court give him a jail term of more than five years despite not intending to trade them in China, a local newspaper, City Express, reported yesterday.

According to China's law, ivory smugglers can face up to 10 years in jail or even life imprisonment if they illegally trade in ivory products worth more than 200,000 yuan in the domestic market.

Prosecutors sought a lenient sentence for Tan because he didn't buy the ivory in order to seek high profits. The court did not announce a verdict.

China signed the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora in 1981 and strictly bans the import and export of wild ivory and its products, said Yuan Guohua, of Hangzhou Customs.

Several regions in Africa and Asia, including Angola, haven't signed the CITES. It's legal for Chinese nationals to buy ivory in Angola but you have to go through complicated procedures to get approval from Chinese authorities to bring them back, Yuan said.

However, the 50-year-old Tan neither declared the stuff to China Customs nor got an import license. He even fled after officials at Hangzhou Xiaoshan International Airport checked his luggage last July.

Tan surrendered to police more than ten days later.

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