By Kirst Johnston
A smuggler has been fined $12,000 for illegally importing elephant ivory - in the first New Zealand conviction of its kind.
Auckland man Jiezhen Jiang was sentenced in the Manukau District Court today on eight charges of trading in an endangered species without an appropriate permit.
Items including carved elephant tusks, a statue and a letter-opener were seized from the 57-year-old retiree’s Mellons Bay home after customs intercepted a parcel of ivory addressed to Jiang last year.
In court, Jiang’s lawyer attempted to argue he didn’t know the items were ivory and that they were for a private collection, not for commercial trade.
However the Crown argued that Jiang had upped the price on one item by around $12,000, so he must have known its value.
He was also a prolific trader, buying 299 items such as china and silverware worth $180,000 over ten months to September 2011. At least one piece of ivory was on-sold to China.
When interviewed, Jiang admitted he knew elephants were endangered and said he bought the ivory as both art and as an investment because it might not be around much longer.
Commercial trading in ivory is illegal. It was banned globally in 1989 because African and Asian elephants are an endangered species at high risk of extinction. More....