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22 April 2024

Secret deal in Sri Lanka to sell off 'blood ivory'

Seized elephants tusks lying in Colombo Port, Sri Lanka. (picture courtesy www.peterborchert.com)

Published
By Correspondent

Suspicion surrounds a secret deal between highly placed Sri Lankan state officials and a politician to sell a stock of ‘blood ivory’ which is in the custody of the country’s customs department at present, informed sources said.

According to the ‘Daily Mirror,’ the stock of 359 elephant tusks, commonly referred to as ‘blood ivory’ valued at over Rs360 million, which was seized by customs officers while in trans-shipment on May 22, 2012, is to be sold illegally to a third party by the authorities under the patronage of a senior politician in the present government.

The ivory was sized arrived in Colombo Port in a 20 foot container from Kenya en route to a Gulf port.

Customs officers had opened the container to inspect the goods as they were emitting an unbearable stench and found tusks which still had flesh sticking to them. They had been severed from live elephants -- killing them on the spot.

Customs officials said that the consignment weighing over 1.5 tonnes was the largest ever seized in a South Asian country.

Customs director General Jagath P. Wijeweera, who confiscated the container carrying the consignment, said it was now lying opposite the Customs Preventive Office inside Colombo Port.

An attempt by the Presidential Secretariat to release blood ivory from the custody of the Customs in a bid to offer it to the Dalada Maligawa was foiled when many people, including environmentalists, protested against the measure, saying the contraband should be destroyed in public.

A letter sent to the Director General of Customs on December 19, 2012 on the subject of ‘Forfeited stock of 359 pieces of elephant tusks,’ signed by the then president’s chief of staff Gamini S. Senarath, had instructed the director general to release the goods to a courier service named Colombo Logistics -- to be dispatched to the Dalada Maligawa as directed by former president Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Responding to the allegations, Customs spokesman, director Leslie Gamini said the consignment was still lying outside the Preventive Office under supervision by the department.