English World

Major push against ivory trade

KUALA LUMPUR: THE Customs Department will intensify measures to combat the illegal ivory trade at all entry and exit points nationwide.

Customs Department director-general Datuk Seri Khazali Ahmad said the department was enhancing enforcement efforts to curb smuggling of the contraband by carrying out land and sea patrols, roadblocks, inspection of outlets, special operations and joint operations with other agencies.

“There have been many questions as to why Malaysia has been identified as a key conduit when we don’t have a local ivory market.

“The assessment by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites) and Traffic (the wildlife trade monitoring network) looked at what the seizures tell us, an indication of routes smugglers chose to take.

“With Malaysia having some of the busiest ports in Southeast Asia, it is only natural that it is exploited by black market traders,” he told the New Straits Times yesterday.

Khazali, however, noted that over the last few years, there had been an increase in seizures of ivory and Cites products, due to the affirmative action taken by the Customs Department at border checkpoints and entry points in Malaysia.

He said 100 per cent inspections were carried out on containers or vehicles suspected of ferrying Cites products at ports and at the borders.

“There will be optimum usage of the non-intrusive inspection techniques (NIIT scanner machines) on containers. We will carry out regular operations nationwide and joint operations with other relevant enforcement agencies.”

Khazali said periodic meetings with all relevant enforcement agencies would be organised to discuss how to better tackle the problem.

“When the new approach of Collaborated Border Management (CBM) is enforced, it will overhaul the current strategy of our second line of defence to a more proactive role on the first line of defence.”

The department, he said, would cooperate with Traffic and other enforcement agencies to exchange information on ivory trade.

“We will intensify joint operations with the World Customs Organisation, International Criminal Police Organisation and other international agencies.

“Our officers at entry and exit points are equipped with the knowledge of Commodity Identification Training to identify Cites products for quick interception.”

The Customs Department, he said, routinely carried out assessment using various risk indicators to select and target high-risk shipments and passengers to reduce smuggling of ivory.

He noted that the department was in the midst of developing the National Targeting Centre, which used a risk management tool to detect high-risk goods, companies, and people for the purpose of intelligence.

Khazali added that the public played a key role in addressing the issue, and could be the eyes and ears of the authorities by providing information on illegal activities by calling the department’s hotline at 1800 88 8855. Traffic had on Thursday revealed that Malaysia was one of the world’s paramount ivory transit country, with its ports serving as major gateways for the flow of tonnes of illicit ivory between Africa and Asia.

Traffic urged Malaysia to intensify its collaboration and communication with ivory source and consumer countries and recommended that authorities enhance their risk indicator and profiling techniques to detect high-risk shipments.

-New Straits Times

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