Hong Kong customs officers seize 4.2 tonnes of dried shark skin worth HK$1.7 million in Thai shipment

Hong Kong customs officers seize 4.2 tonnes of dried shark skin worth HK$1.7 million in Thai shipment

Hong Kong customs officers have confiscated 4.2 tonnes of dried shark skin from endangered species in a shipment from Thailand, resulting in the arrest of the director of a local company.

Superintendent Jason Lau Yuk-lung of customs’ syndicate crimes investigation bureau on Tuesday said the HK$1.7 million (US$217,554) haul, discovered the day before, was the biggest seizure of the protected product in recent years.

“We believe the shark skin seized in the operation would have been mainly used for cooking purposes,” Lau said.

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Customs says the dried shark skin haul is worth HK$1.7 million. Photo: Jelly Tse

A shipment declared to be carrying dried shark skin arrived in Hong Kong from Thailand on Monday last week, according to the Customs and Excise Department.

The superintendent said it was selected for inspection to determine whether the product was from endangered species and if it was imported into the city with a permit issued by the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD).

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The cargo container, filled with more than 170 nylon bags and boxes of dried shark skin, was then taken to the Customshouse Cargo Examination Compound in Kwai Chung, where it was opened for inspection on Monday.

Lau said samples were checked with the help of AFCD experts and confirmed to have been removed from protected spinner sharks that required a permit to be imported into the city. But the shipment did not have such a permit.

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The shipment arrived in Hong Kong last week, customs says. Photo: Jelly Tse

On the same day, officers from customs’ syndicate crimes investigation bureau arrested the director of a local company listed as consignee in his Sheung Wan office.

The 68-year-old man was granted bail on Tuesday, pending further investigations.

In Hong Kong, importing, possessing or exporting endangered species without a permit carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in jail and a HK$10 million fine.

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Lau said it was a substantial haul of shark skin and he doubted all of it was destined for the local market. “We are still investigating whether it was intended for overseas,” he added.

The investigation was continuing and further arrests were possible, the department said.

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More than 170 nylon bags and boxes of dried shark skin were found in the container. Photo: Jelly Tse

Customs officers at Hong Kong International Airport arrested two travellers and seized HK$700,000 worth of protected items such as tiger teeth, pangolin meat and live turtles in two separate cases on Friday and Saturday last week.

One of the travellers was a 50-year-old man who arrived in the city from Nigeria and planned to take a cross-boundary ferry to Shekou in mainland China on Friday.

Customs officers found 230 grams (8 ounces) of tiger teeth and 128 grams of pangolin meat in his check-in luggage. The haul had an estimated street value of HK$50,000.

The other suspect was a 45-year-old woman who arrived from Tokyo. Sixty-four live turtles worth HK$650,000 were found in her check-in suitcase.

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