Four investigated for smuggling nearly one ton of pangolin scales in Hanoi

By Minh Nga   May 21, 2021 | 01:31 am PT
Four investigated for smuggling nearly one ton of pangolin scales in Hanoi
A police officer holds pangolin scales as part of a nearly one-ton bust in Hanoi, March 2021. Photo by Hanoi police.
Police in Hanoi in collaboration with an environmental NGO have busted a pangolin scale trafficking ring in northern Vietnam.

Hanoi’s Environmental Crime Prevention and Fighting Police Department are probing three women, Nguyen Thi Chinh and Nguyen Thi Ha, both 33 and residing in northern Vinh Phuc Province, Hoang Thi Hien Phuong, 36, in Hanoi for the "sale of illegal goods" and a man, Nguyen Van Su, 41, who also lives in Vinh Phuc, for "transporting illegal goods."

In January, the police and the Education for Nature Vietnam (ENV) became aware of a major pangolin scale trafficking network operating in Hanoi, and the northern provinces of Vinh Phuc, Lang Son and Bac Ninh.

For weeks later, they collaborated in an investigation and on March 29, caught Chinh, Su and Phuong red-handed as they were trading pangolin scales in a residential area in Hanoi’s Me Linh District.

During the arrest, police confiscated 984 kilograms of white-bellied pangolin scales contained in 50 bags, ENV said in a statement Thursday.

To date, this has been the largest takedown of a pangolin scale trafficking in Vietnam.

As they expanded the investigation, police also recently arrested Ha.

Pangolins are believed to be the world’s most trafficked mammals accounting for as much as 20 percent of all illegal wildlife trade.

The animal is hunted in Vietnam and its neighborhood for their meat and the alleged medicinal properties of their scales.

An investigation last year by the Netherlands-based Wildlife Justice Commission (WJC) said in 2018 and 2019, there were shipments of more than 500 kilograms each seized at Noi Bai International Airport in Hanoi, and five sea ports in Ho Chi Minh City, Da Nang, Hai Phong and Ba Ria-Vung Tau.

Last year, China removed pangolin body parts from its official list of traditional medicines, a move lauded by wildlife groups as a vital step towards protecting the species.

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