By John Simpson, The Times
Two men have been jailed for using eBay to export ivory fans worth £145,000 from their flat on a south London estate. Guy Buckle, 62, and Sik Hung Or, 72, exported more than 100 prohibited items to China, Hong Kong and the US.
Yesterday at Inner London crown court the pair, who were caught with 300 fans, admitted the offences and were each jailed for 28 months.
Officers from Scotland Yard’s wildlife crime unit had raided their flat and found a spreadsheet detailing 136 pieces that had been sold on eBay for a total of £145,000.
Detectives had been tipped off after Royal Mail staff intercepted two parcels containing ivory fans at Heathrow and told Border Force officials. The Met was contacted by the National Wildlife Crime Unit after the fans, destined for China, were seized in November 2017.
Buckle and Hung Or admitted three charges of exporting goods with intent to evade a restriction. These related to the items on the spreadsheet as well as the fans seized at Heathrow. Officers also discovered 291 carved ivory fans and four pieces of uncarved ivory that were ready to be sold on eBay.
The fans were assessed as antiques which meant that their sale in the UK was lawful, but the pair made most of their sales to China, Hong Kong and the US without the necessary re-export permit that is issued by the Animal and Plant Health Agency.
The case predates a ban on ivory that was introduced in China at the end of 2017, which charities said had halved demand.
Last year researchers at the Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology found that ivory dealers used a system of code words in several languages to advertise covertly on eBay. Over a month the researchers found that despite a decade-long ban on all ivory sales on the site, there were at least 113 sellers advertising 183 items.
Last month Slawomir Kazmierczak, 55, from Spalding, Lincolnshire, a dealer trading ivory jewellery, pleaded guilty to nine charges under the Protecting the Endangered Species Act. He will be sentenced next month.
Detective Constable Sarah Bailey who led the investigation into Buckle said: “I hope today’s sentencing acts as a deterrent to those involved in the illegal sale and export of such items.”