Hong Kong customs seize HK$10m endangered Thailand rosewood

The haul of Dalbergia cochinchinsis, also known as Thailand rosewood is believed to be one of the city’s biggest wood-smuggling cases in recent years

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 02 August, 2016, 8:58pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 02 August, 2016, 10:57pm

Hong Kong Customs has sought help from their counterparts in Thailand and mainland China to track down smugglers behind a consignment of more than 73 tonnes of endangered high-value wood destined for Guangdong, the Post has learned.

The haul of Dalbergia cochinchinsis, also known as Thailand rosewood, was estimated to be worth about HK$10 million and one of the city’s biggest wood-smuggling cases in recent years, sources with the knowledge of the investigation said.

The consignment, declared to contain wood timber, was found in three cargo containers which arrived from Thailand in two shipments about two weeks ago, according to the Customs and Excise Department.

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The Post was told that the three containers were selected for inspection last week after receiving intelligence from Thai authorities.

“Each container was packed with hundreds of wood logs which are about three metres in length each,” one source said, adding that samples were taken for examination and confirmed to be endangered rosewood.

According to the department, a total of 73.3 tonnes of the endangered wood was confiscated in the three containers. So far, no arrests have been made and the investigation is continuing.

“Intelligence showed the consignment was destined for Guangdong and would have been used for making furniture and carvings,” the source said.

It is understood customs officers were investigating logistic arrangements in an effort to track down the smugglers.

“Due to growing affluence, endangered high-valued wood such as rosewood and red sandalwood are high in demand on the mainland China,” the source said, adding that the illegal shipments normally came from South Asian countries.

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Last month, customs uncovered at least four smuggling cases involving items such as ivory and pangolin scales. In one of the four cases, officers confiscated 7.3 tonnes of pangolin scales worth about HK$14 million from a container which arrived from Nigeria. It was the city’s largest seizure of pangolin scales in five years.

“There is no evidence indicating Hong Kong has become a transit point for smuggling endangered species,” another source said.

The source said the seizures demonstrated their determination against such illegal trade and the effectiveness of intelligence-exchange with overseas law enforcers.

“Intelligence shows our stringent enforcement actions has led smugglers to use other countries as their transhipment points to avoid detection,” he said.

Importing and exporting endangered species without a licence is an offence under the Protection of Endangered Species of Animals and Plants Ordinance, which carries a maximum penalty of two years in jail a HK$5 million fine.