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Customs officers from Guangdong province and Hong Kong seized 10 pieces of African ivory, weighing 323.7 kilograms, after cracking down on a major smuggling operation.
Seventeen suspects, including six Hong Kong residents, were detained for further investigation, according to Ma Dongsheng, a senior customs officer with the anti-smuggling bureau of Shenzhen Customs.
"A major smuggling channel that used to be active in smuggling African ivory to the mainland has been destroyed after a major smuggling gang was busted during the operation," Ma told a news conference on Thursday.
Led by the General Administration of Customs, a special task force was set up after customs officers in Zhanjiang, Guangdong, seized smuggled ivory late last year.
A gang of smugglers, including members from the Chinese mainland and Hong Kong, are suspected of taking African ivory into Guangdong via Hong Kong, Ma said.
The task force consisted of customs officers from Shenzhen, Zhanjiang and Fuzhou, Fujian province.
After months of investigation, Shenzhen officers detained three suspects and seized two complete ivory pieces weighing 46.7 kg in Dongguan, Guangdong.
Meanwhile, another eight suspects were detained elsewhere in cooperation with police in Jiangmen, Guangdong, and in Putian, Fujian province. Most of the gang members are natives of Fujian. The detainees include the two suspected gang leaders, surnamed Cai and Su.
With information provided by customs officers in Shenzhen, Hong Kong customs officers detained another six suspects and seized 10 complete pieces of ivory weighing 277 kg, in an operation launched in Yuen Long, Hong Kong, in July.
"The gang is believed to have smuggled about a metric ton of African ivory, rhinoceros horn and related rare animal parts into the mainland via Hong Kong since November 2017," Ma said.
The potential for big profits has encouraged criminals to risk smuggling ivory into the mainland after China officially banned commercial processing and sales at the beginning of this year, Ma said, adding that Shenzhen Customs has made the fight against ivory smuggling a top priority this year.
Despite the achievement, Ma promised that customs officers in the southern metropolis will never relax their vigilance and will further expand cooperation with their counterparts at home and abroad in the months to come.
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