Vietnamese woman, 40, illegally imported 1,787 elephant tusks from Nigeria to S'pore worth S$3.3 million

The tusks were falsely declared as 203 packages of groundnuts.

Fiona Tan | March 25, 2022, 03:32 PM

Follow us on Telegram for the latest updates:

A 40-year-old Vietnamese woman, who is a Singapore permanent resident, imported a 40-feet container consisting of 1,787 elephant tusks from Nigeria to Singapore illegally in 2018.

S$3.3 million worth of elephant tusks falsely declared as 203 packages of groundnuts

According to The Straits Times (ST), an on-duty Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) officer at the ICA Pasir Panjang Scanning Station found images akin to animal horns inside the incoming container from Apapa, Nigeria on Mar. 3, 2018.

The court heard that its permit had declared that it contained 203 packages of groundnuts.

After the container was detained for investigation, 1,787 suspected elephant tusks were discovered within 61 bags weighing a total of 3,480kg.

According to 8World News, the ivory's total value was S$3.3 million.

Woman was head of the two complicit shipping and logistics firms

Dao Thi Boi was found guilty of an offence under the Endangered Species (Import & Export) Act on Mar. 23, according to ST.

She was the owner and director of VNSG Trading and Song Hong Trading & Logistics, which facilitated the trade and import from a Vietnamese male client, Su Thien, when the offence was committed.

From court documents seen by ST, Boi managed seven consignments from Nigeria to Singapore on behalf of Su Thien through both of her companies between 2017 and Mar. 5, 2018.

Woman turned blind eye and knowingly assisted trade

Deputy Public Prosecutor Lee Zu Zhao said Boi not only turned a blind eye, but actively and knowingly assisted in Su Thien's dishonest business practices.

Lee said Boi had to be fully aware that the company had imported a container filled with elephant tusks because she was the sole person operating Song Hong Trading & Logistics.

Additionally, Boi also failed to take all reasonable precautions and exercise all due diligence to avoid the commission of the offence, according to ST.

Boi claimed in her testimony that she thought the container only contained groundnuts, and she did not have the permission to check if the packers had filled the container with ivory, reported 8World News.

Boi was represented by Wee, Tay and Lim LLP Wee Pan Lee, who argued Su Thien should be held responsible for the shipments' contents as his client's companies were merely the named consignees.

Lee argued the contrary and said Boi's company played an "essential role", where it was responsible for importing the container into Singapore, without which the shipment would not have been possible.

Lee said: "Just because Song Hong was not involved in the initial stuffing of the container where the elephant tusks were found... or did not participate in the shipping out of the elephant tusks from Nigeria, does not mean that Song Hong did not cause the elephant tusks to be imported into Singapore."

Boi will be sentenced in May, where she may face up to two years jail, fined up to S$500,000 (up to S$50,000 for each listed species), or both.

Endangered Species (Import & Export) Act

The Endangered Species (Import and Export) Act is Singapore's primary law which gives effect and supports the local implementation and enforcement of Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) regulations.

Regulations include the sale of elephant ivory, and its related products, which is illegal in Singapore, after a nation-wide ban kicked in on Sep. 1, 2021.

Elephant ivory and ivory products displayed publicly for the purpose of sale is also not allowed in Singapore.

Besides this, the National Parks Board has partnered with ICA to stop illegally got wildlife products from making its way past Singapore's checkpoints and into Singapore.

ICA will screen and scan shipments and persons passing through Singapore's checkpoints at stations like ICA Pasir Panjang Scanning Station.

Related stories

Top image courtesy of NParks for illustration purposes only