A retired Auckland man has become the first person to be convicted for illegally importing ivory after he bought and sold items through an online auction.
Jiezhen Jiang, 58, was fined a total of $NZ12,000 ($A10,378) after admitting eight charges of trading in an endangered species without a permit. The maximum penalty is up to five years’ jail and/or a fine of up to $NZ100,000.
The items included a letter opener, a parasol handle, a statue of a man and boy, a face mask, a carved woman’s head, a carved scene on a wooden base and two carved tusks which were all made from African elephant tusks.
In 2011, two of the items were intercepted at Auckland’s mail centre after being sent from England and Portugal and the rest were found at his home. At the same time authorities raided the address in Cheltenham, England – the house of one of those responsible for sending ivory to Jiang.
According to police, Jiang had bought 299 items on the eBay auction website and sold ivory items to buyers in China.
The illegal trade in endangered species is worth billions of dollars a year, despite a global ban on commercially trading ivory being imposed in 1989.
Manukau District Court Judge Jonathan Moses on Wednesday said the illegal trade in ivory was a serious issue that threatened the survival of elephants in the wild.
Department of Conservation investigator Dylan Swain said it was the first time someone has been prosecuted, convicted and sentenced for illegally importing ivory into New Zealand.
“We’re pleased with the outcome of this case. It sends a strong signal that anyone attempting to illegally import ivory, or any other endangered wildlife specimens, into New Zealand, will be taken to court.”
He said the conviction would not have been possible without help from New Zealand government agencies and the United Kingdom’s National Wildlife Crime Unit.