Beijing Forest Police today announced the arrest of 16 suspects in a major wildlife trafficking case code-named “May 21”, which led to the confiscation of wildlife products including 804.4 kg ivory, 11.3 kg rhino horn and 35 bear paws. The seizure was the biggest ever in terms of the scale of the smuggling operations behind it. Police said the total value of the haul was in the region of USD4 million. 

The criminal gang behind the trafficking were said to possess their own processing factory, warehouses and vehicles for transportation. The three month operation uncovered a trafficking ring that led from Japan through Hong Kong to mainland China, where the gang was said to operate across a network that ranged from Guangdong to Shandong and Beijing, using antique shops as cover for their operations and using online illegal trading and couriers for their distribution.

The Beijing Forest Police announcement came just days after China and the United States made a joint political commitment “to take significant and timely steps to halt the domestic commercial trade of ivory” during the recent visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping to the US. In July, the United Nations passed a General Assembly Resolution on Tackling the Illicit Trafficking in Wildlife.

According to information released by the Forest Police, since 2013, has been cracked 222 cases involving illegal wildlife trade and arrested 108 suspects. 1321 wildlife products worth around USD7 million, including 1527 kg of ivory have been confiscated.

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