Archives For Illicit Goods

Logging in Africa

Tuesday Reitano, Deputy Director, Global Initiative against Transnational Organised Crime and Riana Raymonde Randrianarisoa, ENACT consultant and independent journalist have published the following article concerning illicit logging in Africa –

Across the continent, illicit logging undermines peace and security and attracts exploitation. From the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Gambia to Guinea-Bissau, Madagascar and Namibia, recent ENACT research has highlighted that illicit logging operations are exposing the continent’s communities to environments marred by serious labour and sexual exploitation. Young people are particularly affected.

Africa’s forestry sector is notoriously under-regulated. Leading UK think tank, Chatham House has estimated that in most forested countries in Africa, 80% to 100% of all trees felled could be done so illicitly.

This is due to a combination of factors, including highly limited state capacity for forestry governance and contestation between federal, local and traditional authorities over land ownership and usage. Limited awareness and weaknesses in law enforcement and customs also contribute to the problem, as do corruption and bureaucratic systems of issuing permits and licenses.

As a consequence, illicit interests and criminal actors have infiltrated logging supply chains across the continent, further diverting efforts for legitimate oversight. These dynamics are examined in an upcoming ENACT research paper.

Timber extraction, by its nature, is a hazardous occupation. But with illicit, unregulated and informal logging, safety risks increase – often with fatal consequences.

A TRAFFIC report examining the illicit logging industry in Madagascar, for example, estimated that three out of every 10 loggers in the industry die in workplace-related accidents. Madagascar is currently under a complete logging moratorium, so all aspects of the trade are illicit and shrouded in secrecy. A local Malagasy politician confirmed to ENACT researchers that high mortality rates at logging sites have become a major issue, because most of the wood cutters and transporters are not from local populations.

‘Bosses recruit them from other villages or other districts because it is easy to have control over them,’ explained the president of a local conservation NGO, adding that when workplace deaths occur at logging sites, timber fellers and transporters often have to bury their fallen colleagues in the forest to avoid detection.

The Namibian charcoal market, where approximately 6 000 people are employed, is characterised as ‘informal and fragmented, mired with the exploitation of workers and preventable environmental degradation.’ The subcontractors are remunerated according to the quantity of charcoal they produce. The financials are structured in a way that makes it impossible for these subcontractors to turn a profit, let alone to harvest within the law.

Charcoal workers often come from Namibia’s poorest region, Kavango, and find themselves caught in systems of debt bondage – whereby their payments can never repay the ‘debts’ they accumulate to their employer.

Landowners procure charcoal production and transport permits and provide the equipment needed to log, but then offset these costs against the worker’s production. In this region, entire families often live on site and become reliant on charcoal production. This pattern is replicated on logging sites across the continent. In many instances, foreign firms have aggressively infiltrated artisanal supply chains; capturing licenses and concessions intended for small-scale community use and forcing locals into exploitative contractual arrangements.

The illicit logging sector has also become rife with child labour, which can be viewed as a form of human trafficking. The prospect of quick earnings in unstable economic climates often incentivises families to take children out of school during timber harvests.

Profits from the logging industry may at first seem appealing and offer a greater promise of a future than education. However, scores of young men who are recruited into log transport operations have lost limbs, faced extended hospitalisation or been fatally injured on the job. Young girls are equally at risk. Community health officers in a logging community have commented on spikes in pregnancy rates and sexually transmitted infections during logging season, along with widespread sexual abuse.

ENACT research indicates that that sex work is pervasive across informal and illicit timber sites across the continent, as it is in other informal and under- or unregulated industries.  Loggers in Guinea-Bissau, Senegal and the Gambia have confirmed allegations that under-age girls from as far away as Nigeria are often forcibly trafficked to logging sites in these regions for the purposes of sexual exploitation.

Trafficking groups provide false identification, claiming that the girls are local residents and legal adults. If police or law enforcement unit asks about the girls, traffickers may attempt to evade law enforcement action by claiming that the girls are consenting adults. Our research in logging sites, however, suggests a very different reality. Girls are trafficked against their will, under false pretences, and are held in situations where they are sexually exploited and brutally abused.

While much has been written about the negative impact of illicit logging, the focus is usually on the environmental damage and financial losses caused by the increasingly criminal practice. The human cost – in terms of the degradation of human rights, quality of living and prospects for communities living and working in and around illegal logging sites – is often overlooked. Yet the exploitation and abuse on Africa’s youth may have long-lasting negative consequences for the continent’s development.

Initiatives to promote Africa’s forestry sector, which is frequently highlighted as a potential engine for economic growth, must go beyond simply maximising trade. They must also guarantee safe, viable and sustainable livelihoods for those employed in the sector.

Source: ENACT, 10 July 2018., by T.Reitano and R.Raymonde Randrianarisoa

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FIFA_2018

It’s that time in the sporting calendar when football fans go wild for the FIFA World Cup – it’s also that time when counterfeiters take advantage of the international sporting craze.

Five days into the World Cup and the 2018 game fixture has been besieged with fake tickets, apparel and other merchandise as authorities across the world work to crackdown on the illicit trade.

In Hong Kong, officials launched Operation Goalkeeper at the end of April in a bid to prevent counterfeit items entering the state and have already seized 259,000 knock-off World Cup products worth more than HK$15m (US $1.9m). Five arrests have also been made.

Amongst the infringing items seized were 50,000 pairs of shoes, 29,000 bags and 57,000 jerseys bearing fake FIFA trademarks, World Intellectual Property Review reported.

The confiscated items were found in 12 shipping containers, four goods vehicles and a batch of air parcels.

In China’s Guangdong province more than 130,000 fake merchandise has been seized. Thousands of footballs bearing FIFA World Cup insignia were to be exported to Tanzania, while 4,500 fake jerseys were seized before they could be exported to Malaysia.

Shanghai customs has also confiscated more than 130,000 knock-off items destined for Colombia, and Shenzhen customs seized 4,000 clothing items in April including 3,000 t-shirts and 1,000 hats with infringing logos that were also due to be exported from the country.

Meanwhile, in the UK, more than £240,000 of fake football kit, made up of 12,000 items entering the UK via East Midlands Airport, has been seized by authorities since April, according to Leicestershire County Council.

“Unsuspecting football fans can fall victim to purchasing fake and sometimes unsafe goods during the World Cup,” said county council leader Nick Rushton. “Trading Standards involvement at the border not only protects fans but also manufacturers and retailers from being undercut.”

Host country Russia has also confiscated 270,000 fake products featuring World Cup logos.

It’s not just clothing and merchandise that has generated a flood of replicas; tickets too have been faked.

Around 10,000 football fans from around the world who have travelled to Russia for the World Cup have discovered they have been scammed by purchasing fake tickets. Reports claim that a Russian company, Anji MSK, was behind the fake ticket scam, falsifying a letter from FIFA authorising the company to sell the tickets. The firm, which is no longer reachable, is believed to have netted more than $100m from the scam.

With China being a centre for the manufacture of counterfeits, and with a northern border with Russia, China’s General Administration of Customs committed to cracking down on counterfeits ahead of the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Chinese customs officials, along with counterparts in Hong Kong and Macau have worked on a campaign that has been running since March.

Both the International Trademark Association and FIFA have warned about the presence of fake merchandise, which can range “from footballs to caps, from clothing to toys, and from footwear to miscellaneous items such as pins, keychains, World Cup Trophy replicas and other items that feature FIFA trademarks”.

“FIFA runs a global licensing programme, which gives a wide range of licensees the opportunity to produce official licensed products for the FIFA World Cup. However, there are also companies that seek to produce items featuring FIFA’s official marks without purchasing the required licence,” the global football body said. “For the 2018 FIFA World Cup, FIFA will be working together with customs authorities across the world to be able to use existing structures and know-how in the joint battle against counterfeit products.”

The organisation, which is monitoring IP registers and has set up commercial restriction areas around stadiums, said it would take all measures to stop infringing activity.

In 2014, some seven million fake World Cup items destined for foreign markets were seized by Chinese authorities.

Source: SecuringIndustry.com, article by Katrina Megget, 18 June 2018

Global Illicit Trade Environment Index.PNGThe Economist Intelligence Unit and the Transnational Alliance to Combat Illicit Trade (TRACIT) have released their Global Illicit Trade Environment Index, ranking 84 countries on the extent they enable or prevent illicit trade.

Finland ranks first in the Index with a score of 85.6 (out of 100), just barely ahead of the U.K. The rest of the top 10 includes a handful of European countries (Sweden, Austria, Netherlands, Denmark and Germany), along with the U.S., Australia and New Zealand. South Africa features 42nd in the list.

At the bottom of the Index ranking is a group of developing economies from all regions of the globe. Libya ranks last with a score of 8.4, and is joined by Iraq in 83rd place, scoring less than six points better. Filling out the bottom ten of the Index are: Myanmar, Laos, Venezuela, Cambodia, Kyrgyzstan, Belize and Ukraine.

Regionally, Europe (34 economies in the index), earns the highest the average score (68.0). The Asia-Pacific (21 economies) comes second at 56.0 and the Americas (19 economies), including the U.S. and Canada, is third at 54.0. The Middle East and Africa (10 economies) comes in last, with an average score of 50.0.

The Index is constructed on consideration of government policy, supply and demand, transparency and trade, and customs environment.

Download the White Paper here!

“The Index provides essential information to help policy makers better understand the regulatory environment and economic circumstances that encourage illicit trade,” said Jeffrey Hardy, Director-General at TRACIT. “Illicit trade not only hurts consumers and takes revenue away from governments, it threatens the security of nations by supporting transnational criminal syndicates and terrorist groups, and governments and the private sector must work together to fight it.”

TRACIT hopes that economies that are at the top will concentrate on implementation and enforcement and says they need to provide leadership to help countries with lower scores to build a better environment to prevent illicit trade.

TRACIT calls for Governments across the globe to:

  • Commit to illicit trade related treaties;
  • Tighten controls on money laundering;
  • Reduce corruption;
  • Rationalize tax policies;
  • Strengthen law enforcement efforts;
  • Protect intellectual property;
  • Enhance interagency cooperation;
  • Improve governance of FTZs;
  • Report and share statistical data across borders.

Source: The Economist, Illicit Trade Index, June 2018

andy-the-beagle-2-e1526128073677.jpgAfter eight years on the job, Australia’s last mainland beagle sniffer dog is hanging up his lead and heading into well-earned retirement.

Andy the beagle, who single-nosedly detected about 2.3 tonnes of biosecurity risk material over a career which took him across Australia, will return to Sydney to live with his original handler.

Andy, who just celebrated his tenth birthday, spent six years working as a detector dog at Sydney International Airport as well as stints at Coolangatta and the Gold Coast before making a final transfer to Adelaide. Most recently he has been working with the Primary Industries and Regions SA on their fruit fly campaign.

Andy’s career numbers after eight years earned him high praise among handlers:

  • 2.3 tonnes of biosecurity risk material confiscated.
  • 718kg of undeclared fruit and fresh vegetables.
  • 432kg of meat including dried organs.
  • 8.9kg of viable seeds and live plants.
  • 128 travellers issued infringement notices as a result of Andy’s keen nose.

Andy’s Adelaide handlers were sad to see him go, saying they would have put their hands up to take him in if he wasn’t heading back to Sydney.

Andy is the last of the beagle sniffer dogs who were once synonymous with airports around Australia. Instead, the next generation will be the larger and far more eager to please labradors.

Adelaide Airport will temporarily only have one sniffer dog, Ari the labrador, but a replacement for Andy is expected by the end of the year. Only one beagle sniffer dog remains on active duty in Australia — Dawson, who works on Norfolk Island.

Source: The Advertiser, 10 May 2018, article by Mitch Mott.

High Tech Game Park

Almost the size of Pretoria, this 62,000 hectare private reserve on the border with Kruger National Park has upped its game against poaching.

What was once an operation with a handful anti-poachers patrolling an electric fence and hiding in watch towers has now been turned into a 21st century fortress in the bush.

This is all thanks to a pilot project called “Connected Conservation“, a collaboration between 48 private lodge owners, the tech company Cisco, and Dimension Data, the data solutions company.

While there had been great initiatives to protect the rhino over the years, these were reactive and the number of these animals being killed were increasing at an alarming rate. By combining tech thermal imaging cameras and thumb-print scanners with things like sniffer dogs, the reserve tracks the movement of people before they get close to endangered animals.

Since it began in 2015, the upgrades have brought about a 96% reduction in rhino poaching incursions, as well as reducing illegal incursions into the reserve by 68%. Key to the success has been reducing ranger response time from 30 minutes to 7 minutes.

Source: Business Insider, original article and photo by Caboz, J, 9 May 2018.

Rize one 3D print

Katrina Megget writing for securingindustry.com has penned the following article which describes the significant strides which the 3D printing has made in recent times. Fears of a proliferation in ‘counterfeit production’ may just be arrested given developments which envisage the ‘embedding of digital rights’ into the 3D printing process.

3D printing has received an upgrade – it can now 3D print secure digital information such as QR codes, which could be used in anti-counterfeiting.

Introduced by Boston-based additive manufacturing firm Rize Inc, the development is the first example of Digitally Augmented Parts; essentially the printing of physical parts with digital information.

3D printing (also known as additive manufacturing), which produces a 3D object by depositing successive layers of a material on top of each other as directed by a computer-generated model, has become one of the fastest growing industries, extending into the toy, automotive, aerospace and medical device sectors, among others.

However, there are concerns that 3D printing could be a threat to brands and businesses through counterfeiting.

Rize’s technology directly addresses this concern by enabling a link between the physical 3D printed product and digital information, thereby integrating Industry 4.0 technologies such as blockchain, augmented reality and virtual reality.

According to the company, the “immutable connection…bridges the gap between the virtual and real world”.

Julie Reece, VP of manufacturing at Rize, explained the technique as embedding ‘Digital Rights Management’ into the functional 3D printed parts “for compliance, authenticity and traceability”.

“A significant challenge in the additive manufacturing industry are parts that are non-compliant due to design changes, piracy, counterfeit and obsolescence, that adversely impact the user and customer experience and result in rework, recalls and loss of brand value,” Reece told 3DPrint.com.

The technology expands on the company’s hybrid 3D printer that it introduced about two years ago. This combines two types of printing to form a multi-material technology that is called Augmented Polymer Deposition (APD), which has been used to make industrial-strength parts such as system components and medical testing equipment.

The enhancement now means 3D printed products can be embedded with secure digital information, such as in the form of a QR code. The QR code can then be scanned and read by a smartphone app, which relays the digital information, such as product, manufacturing and supply chain details, to the user.

Rize said the development is important for 3D parts and components used in more complex, multi-part products because it secures the supply chain and ensures authenticity.

“Additive is a part of a bigger strategy for many companies, which is a digital strategy or an Industry 4.0 strategy but really that digital strategy is not fully realised because when you print the part, the digital link breaks,” Andy Kalambi, president and chief executive of Rize, told TCT Magazine. “The moment the part gets printed on the machine it’s a physical part and there is no digital element left in it. The break of the digital link is a big issue for this industry overall to realise the promise of what is called Industry 4.0.”

On Rize’s website, Kalambi said: “This is the first step towards embedding intelligent capabilities within the part and connecting them through a digital thread into the digital twin of the part. Rize is leading the integration of additive manufacturing into the digital ecosystem, which will redefine the user and customer and experience, and ultimately scale the technology to an entirely new segment of commercial and industrial users.”

The development is a significant breakthrough for industry, which has previously voiced concerns that 3D printing will herald the production of counterfeit copies, emphasising the need for anti-counterfeiting measures.

Last May, scientists from the mechanical and aerospace engineering department at New York University noted there was a need to have anti-counterfeiting features within the computer-aided design model. They suggested a unique combination of processing and printing parameters built into the product’s digital design, which if stolen, would produce a defective product.

Other anti-counterfeiting features suggested for 3D printing include novel material compositions that cannot be easily replicated, or quantum dots, which are nanoparticles embedded in the 3D-printed object that can emit different wavelengths of light and provide a unique manufacturing signature.

Source: securingindustry.com, authored by K. Megget, 10 April 2018, [Picture: TCT Magazine]

E-Commerce Strategic PlanCustoms and Border Protection has developed an e-commerce strategy in a bid to tackle the increase in online shopping and growth of illicit and counterfeit goods shipped as small packages.

The strategy, which notes that CBP must “adapt” to the new e-commerce landscape, seeks to address emerging threats posed by the global change in commerce habits and ensure CBP has the means to enforce violations.

Under the new e-commerce strategy, CBP will, among a number of measures, look to enhance data collection and intelligence, develop and utilise state-of-the-art techniques and technologies, review its existing legal and regulatory authorities, seek to strengthen partnerships with the private sector, facilitate international trade standards for e-commerce, and educate the American public of the risks, both as consumers and as importers, associated with non-compliant products.

The crackdown and new emphasis for the CBP reflects the shift from traditional methods of importing via large, containerised shipments to small, low-value packages as direct-to-consumer business becomes more common. This has presented new inspection and data challenges for CBP, especially as the volume of these small packages has increased.

In addition, transnational criminal organisations are increasingly shipping illicit goods to the US via small packages on the belief there is a lower risk of interdiction and less severe enforcement consequences if caught. CBP said this illicit activity poses a risk to the health and safety of Americans and compromises US economic security.

The new e-commerce strategy also follows a report last month by the Government Accountability Office, which reviewed the enforcement efforts by CBP and US Immigration and Customs Enforcement in light of the increase in online shopping and sale of counterfeit goods. The report found that CBP had conducted a limited evaluation of its efforts, suggesting its activities were not the most efficient or effective, and recommended it evaluate its activities to enhance intellectual property enforcement.

The new strategy has a strong focus on data, which is one of the current limitations around enforcement of small packages. For instance, according to the strategy document, CBP will strengthen partnerships with stakeholders and encourage information sharing, proposing benefits for those parties who share advance electronic data and other information and will penalise those who are not compliant in this area.

The agency will also increase its operational efficiency and effectiveness by using data analytics, data mining, and an array of powerful analytical tools. In addition, CBP will expand its existing advance electronic data pilot in the international mail environment to include additional foreign postal operators.

Potential technology options include mobile applications and an e-commerce resource library, the strategy notes. CBP will also develop a portal that contains a database on importers that CBP has vetted and deemed “trusted”.

Source: USCBP and Securing Industry, online article 2018.03.28

counterfeit handbags

[Picture: Ian Law/Shutterstock]

The following article, written by Katrina Megget, was published online by Securing Industry, detailing endeavours of the ‘online marketplace’ in counteracting the online sale of counterfeit products.

E-commerce sites, such as Amazon and Alibaba and including eBay and Groupon, have faced recent criticism for the level of fake products being sold on their platforms and for what, many have described, as poor efforts to stamp out these counterfeit goods.

Online marketplace eBay has officially launched an anti-counterfeiting and authentication programme for luxury handbags sold on its platform.

The service, known as eBay Authenticate which had previously been announced in January (2017), will verify, list and sell high-end handbags from 12 brands on behalf of sellers, with the aim of boosting shopper confidence in the products.

“We’re making it even easier for our buyers to shop quickly and confidently for luxury handbags,” said Laura Chambers, vice president of consumer selling at eBay. “With tens-of-thousands of high-end handbags currently available, eBay is primed to boost customer confidence in selling and shopping for an amazing selection of designer merchandise. We also believe our sellers will love this service, as it provides them with a white-glove service when selling luxury handbags.”

The service, which is only available in the US at present, is opt-in and works by using expert middle-men to ensure goods sold and bought online aren’t fake.

Sellers who have registered with eBay Authenticate, send their handbags to third-party industry experts partnering with the marketplace who verify the bag’s authenticity and then photograph, list, sell and ship the handbag to a buyer on behalf of the seller.

Verified handbags will be marked with an “Authenticity Verified” label and backed by a 200 per cent money back guarantee. Non-verified products will be returned to the seller at no charge.

Media reports suggest prices will be set by the expert rather than the seller, and will be based on eBay sales over the past 90 days.

The seller will receive 80 per cent of the final selling price, which eBay said was nearly twice as much as comparable online services.

The service is available for luxury handbags and wallets valued at more than $500 and currently includes 12 high-end brands, Balenciaga, Burberry, Celine, Chanel, Christian Dior, Fendi, Goyard, Gucci, Hermes, Louis Vuitton, Prada, and Valentino.

An introductory, limited offer will see the service accept luxury handbags valued at $250 and above until the end of January where sellers will receive 90 per cent of the final sale price.

eBay, which has 171 million active buyers worldwide, is looking to expand the programme to other brands and product categories in 2018.

According to the online marketplace, a woman’s handbag is purchased every 13 seconds on eBay in the US. But there is growing competition from other online retailers that focus on pre-owned fashion and accessories, such as The RealReal and Tradesy, which offer authentication services to keep fakes off their sites.

eBay had originally announced plans for the authentication service back in January. At the time of the announcement, Chambers said: “We know that many shoppers may be hesitant to purchase high-end products online. This service is designed to help quell some of those concerns and – in turn – enhance the opportunity for our sellers to get top dollar for their items.”

According to eBay, less than a fraction of a percentage point of all items listed on eBay are identified as potentially fake. But that hasn’t stopped infuriated brand owners taking action against eBay – the online marketplace has previously been sued by luxury brands LVMH and Tiffany & Co.

Feeling their reputations at risk, both Amazon and Alibaba have introduced a number of measures and have even sought legal action against counterfeiters to prove they are taking the issue seriously.

eBay’s authentication move shows it is following suit. The firm already has a number of detection and enforcement tools to fight fakes, including the Verified Rights Owner (VeRO) programme, which allows more than 40,000 rights owners to quickly report possible counterfeit goods.

Source: securingindustry.com, Katrina Megget, 18 October 2017.

Egypt’s Ministry of Interior confirms that it has foiled a plot to smuggle a large shipment of cannabis weighing 6 tons into the country through the Mediterranean Sea on board a ship.

The Ministry said in an official statement that the efforts of its security services are continuing to abort the schemes of dangerous elements seeking to import and smuggle narcotics into Egypt.

It pointed out that early investigations of the General Directorate for Drug Control confirmed the intention of a gang to smuggle a large amount of cannabis stored in Syria to Egypt.

The crew of the ship managed to set sail from the Syrian port of Lattakia for landing off the coast of Egypt, but Egypt’s maritime security prevented them from doing so.

The ministry added that in light of the information available about the movement of the smugglers, they moved to the south of Crete to avoid arrest by the Egyptian authorities.

The ministry said that the concerned bodies coordinated with Greek authorities and provided them with information on the movements of the ship to be seized.

The coordination resulted in the Greek authorities seizing the ship and the cargo and arresting its crew of six persons with Syrian nationality.

The search of the ship resulted in the seizure of a total of 6 tons of cannabis hidden inside secret stores. Source: Egypt Independent, 9 December, 2017

Abalone Shells

Oxpeckers’ environmental investigative journalist, Crystal Chow,  digs up the dirt on the illicit abalone trade.

Abalone tops the list of the most exquisite seafood in Chinese cuisine, and fresh South African abalone are always the first choice for feasts in Cantonese restaurants, where one fresh abalone alone can cost up to HK$2,000 (about R3,000). In recent years, the overfishing and smuggling of wild abalone has pushed this endemic species of the South African coast towards extinction.

“The South African wild abalone are heavier, and they are better than the farmed Japanese and Australian ones in terms of fresh flavour and texture,” said Chit-yu Lau, general manager of Ah Yat Abalones restaurant in Hong Kong. “Our fresh South African abalone are all imported through legitimate channels. The smuggled ones are usually dried, and are rare in Hong Kong.”

Nonetheless, the illicit abalone trade has been gathering significant attention from conservationists combating wildlife trafficking, who believe the profitable contraband market of abalone is linked to the black market of ivory and rhino horns – both of which are driven by high demand from the Chinese market. To read the full story Click here!

Source: oxpeckers.org, author – Chow. C, June 9, 2017.

Cigarette Smuggling in Logs

September 23, 2017 — 1 Comment

Police are on high alert looking for a syndicate that uses donkeys to smuggle luxury cars across the Limpopo River into the Zimbabwe.

Thieves tied ropes to the cars which were hitched on to the donkeys to pull the cars across the river.

Some cars are driven through the drier parts of the river. On Tuesday, a Mercedes Benz C220 was intercepted before it disappeared into Zimbabwe.

“Our members were just in time to pounce on them after the donkeys were apparently no longer able to pull it through the sand,” Brigadier Motlafela Mojapelo  for the SA Police Service said.

The suspects fled into the bushes towards Zimbabwe side. Most of the cars are being smuggled across the river through the border between South Africa and Zimbabwe, south of Beitbridge border post.

In December, police recovered a Hilux bakkie when thieves attempted to smuggle it through the river. The bakkie was stolen in Durban.

It was semi-submerged in the water when Limpopo police commissioner Lieutenant-General Nneke Ledwaba spotted it from a helicopter while he was leading a high-density operation in Musina and Beitbridge.

The vehicle and donkeys were abandoned in the middle of the river and the suspect fled into Zimbabwe. It is not clear why the thieves do not simply driver the car into Zimbabwe – one reason might be that most modern cars are fitted with a tracking device which uses satellite tracking to locate a vehicle, if stolen. The tracker is only active when the car is running.

Mojapelo said 13 vehicles have been recovered since January this year. Thieves target luxury bakkies, SUV’s, specifically Toyota and Isuzu. Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal are the two provinces that are mostly affected.

Last week, four vehicles were recovered. A Range Rover worth R900 000 was recovered after police intercepted it at the Beitbridge border post. The vehicle was en route to Malawi. The man was arrested and was found in possession of cash with an estimated amount of R30 000.

Mojapelo said the car had Limpopo registration numbers, but it was still unclear where it was stolen. Source: Pictures – SAPS and article – Iavan Pijoos, News24, 2 August 2017.

rock-lobster3

Cape Town businessman Arnold Bengis drained South Africa’s seas – and now it is payback time.

A US court has ordered the 81-year-old to pay South Africa $37-million (about R483-million) for catching thousands of tons of rock lobster over 14 years.

The restitution amount replaces a $21-million payment Bengis agreed to make to South Africa in 2004. Because he paid only $1.25-million and placed the rest “out of reach of the US”, Manhattan District Court Judge Lewis Kaplan sentenced him on Wednesday to more than four years’ imprisonment.

Kaplan ordered an immediate arrest warrant for Bengis, now living in Israel. State attorney Kiersten Fletcher said US authorities would try to extradite him.

Said the judge: “There is value to Mr Bengis understanding that.there may be a knock at the door and a pair of handcuffs in his future.”

The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries wanted $100-million in restitution but it welcomed Kaplan’s judgment.

“We are fairly satisfied with the $37-million, but we hope [Bengis] won’t appeal it, so the payment will be effected as soon as possible,” said the department’s Thembalethu Vico.

Although Bengis’s activities stopped 17 years ago, damage to the coastal ecosystem was still depriving fishing communities of access to resources, he said.

Former department head of fisheries Horst Kleinschmidt, who testified in the District Court in 2004 about Bengis’s fishing activities, quoted research that suggested free-falling rock lobster stocks “immediately stabilised” after his operation was stopped.

He said yesterday that when officials discovered the extent of Bengis’s plunder “it made nonsense of any scientific inquiry” into environmental factors behind declining fish stocks.

“He hired lots of little fishermen with boats to supply him with contraband fish stocks. The decline is evident in the total allowable catch figures, which the scientists set lower and lower. Once he was caught, we realised he was a major source of that,” he said.

His fleet of trawlers overfished more than 2200t of West Coast rock lobster between 1987 and 2000. The $37-million was the proceeds of just one year, plus interest, said an Ocean and Land Resources Assessment Consultants report.South Africa will be the first foreign government to be compensated under a 117-year-old US law, the Lacey Act, which regulates imports of protected species.

Department lawyer Barnabas Xulu said it took his team six months to prepare for the case and hailed the ruling as “ground-breaking”, but conceded there could still be challenges ahead.

During arguments in court, Kaplan told Bengis’s attorney, Eric Creizman, his client “rearranged” his assets, amounting to $25-million, into a Channel Islands fund so the US government could not reach it. Source: Times Live (2017, July 21)

A Hong Kong woman was caught late last month crossing the border into the mainland with an impressive 102 iPhones taped to her body — apparently, Shenzhen customs officers became a wee bit suspicious after noticing the woman’s unusually bulky clothing and strange stride.

They ordered her to take a walk through the X-ray scanner, which promptly sounded its alarm. A check revealed not only more than a hundred iPhones, but also 15 Tissot watches that were taped around her chest. In total, the smuggled items weighed about 20 kilograms, according to an Oriental Daily.

Vietnam-Ivory

Vietnamese authorities have seized nearly three tonnes of ivory hidden among boxes of fruit, officials said on Sunday, the latest haul to spotlight the country’s key role in the global wildlife smuggling trade.

Police in the central province of Thanh Hoa found 2.7 tonnes of tusks inside cartons on the back of a truck that was on its way to Hanoi, according to their website.

“This is the largest seizure of smuggled ivory ever in Thanh Hoa province,” the report said.State media said the elephant tusks originated from South Africa.

The truck driver claimed he was unaware of what he was transporting, according to a report in state-controlled Tuoi Tre newspaper.

The global trade in elephant ivory, with rare exceptions, has been outlawed since 1989 after populations of the African giants dropped from millions in the mid-20th century to around 600,000 by the end of the 1980s.

There are now believed to be some 415,000, with 30,000 illegally killed each year. Prices for a kilogramme of ivory can reach as high as US$1,100 (Dh4,040).

Vietnam outlawed the ivory trade in 1992 but the country remains a top market for ivory products prized locally for decorative purposes, or in traditional medicine despite having no proven medicinal qualities.

Weak law enforcement in the communist country has allowed a black market to flourish, and Vietnam is also a busy thoroughfare for tusks trafficked from Africa destined for other parts of Asia, mainly China.

Last October, Vietnam customs authorities discovered about 3.5 tonnes of elephant tusks at Cat Lai port in Ho Chi Minh city, all in crates of wood, including a hefty two-tonne haul packed into a single shipment.

In 2015, 2.2 tonnes of tusks, originating from Mozambique, were discovered and seized northern Hai Phong port.

And last week authorities in Hong Kong seized 7.2 tonnes of ivory, the largest haul in the city for three decades.

While low level couriers are sometimes arrested across Asia very few wildlife trafficking kingpins are brought to justice. Source: The National