Horn smugglers caught at Vietnam airport

TN News

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Security checks found seven horns, possibly of rhinos, in the luggage of two Vietnamese men at Noi Bai International Airport in Hanoi November 4, local customs officers said Wednesday.

The horns were confiscated from Nguyen Van Chien, 27, and Nguyen Van Tuan, 48, after the two arrived at the airport on a flight from Thailand.

The horns are now undergoing tests at the Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology to verify if they are indeed from the endangered rhinoceros, according to Noi Bai airport's Customs Agency.

The agency said they weighed a total of 23.5 kilograms and could be worth up to tens of billions dong if they are officially identified as rhino horns.

Chien and Tuan failed to present documents related to the horns, customs officers said, adding that they originally had flown from Doha, Qatar.

They had their passports confiscated and were restricted from leaving their residential areas in Hanoi's Phu Xuyen and Gia Lam districts during the investigation, a source told Thanh Nien.

In related news, police in the northern province of Quang Ninh Wednesday arrested Nguyen Ngoc Thanh, 44, after he was caught transporting an alleged rhino horn, Quang Ninh's official news portal reported.

The report said the horn was found in Thanh's backpack as he drove a bus from Hanoi to Cam Pha Town.

Provincial traffic police had checked the bus in a routine stop that same day.

The horn weighed three kilograms and was cut into three parts, it added.

Investigators said Thanh told police he was transporting the horn for his friend, a xe om driver, from Hanoi to Cam Pha for VND2 million (US$95.25).

Speaking to Thanh Nien earlier, Do Quang Tung, deputy director of CITES Vietnam, said between 2006 and 2012, Vietnamese authorities busted 11 cases involving the illegal transport of rhino horns from other countries, mostly African countries, into Vietnam, and four cases of illegal trading inside the country.

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More than 100 kilograms of rhino horn were seized in Vietnam over the last six years, the highest tally of any country in the world, Tung said.

The rhino horns were mostly smuggled into Vietnam via airports, and most of the horns were then smuggled into China, he added.

According to a study by wildlife trade monitoring network TRAFFIC released last August, of the 43 documented arrests of Asian nationals for rhino crimes in South Africa -- the world's major supplier of horns -- 24 were Vietnamese.

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