Treasury written question – answered on 12th February 2004.

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Photo of Norman Baker Norman Baker Liberal Democrat, Lewes

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer pursuant to the answer to the right hon. Member for Maidstone and The Weald (Miss Widdecombe), of 6 February 2004, Official Report, columns 1082–83W, on ivory seizures, for what reasons no prosecutions have been initiated by Her Majesty's Customs and Excise.

Photo of John Healey John Healey The Economic Secretary to the Treasury

Customs will normally prosecute in those cases where a deliberate or organised attempt has been made to evade or breach for commercial gain the controls on ivory. Customs would look carefully at the circumstances of any case where seized ivory is either antique or harvested legitimately prior to the ban imposed on commercial trade in ivory from African elephants in 1990. Such ivory can be lawfully traded provided that it is accompanied by the appropriate documentation issued by the competent authorities.

Many seizures of ivory involve a small quantity found in the possession of members of the travelling public who are shown after inquiries to have breached the controls unwittingly—for example by importing items which were on open sale and were bought in good faith, or by exporting items that have been held in the UK legitimately for some time.

Two detections in 2001 involved commercial quantities of ivory which had been deliberately concealed. Both cases involved ivory in transit through the UK to another country of destination. Customs agreed with the law enforcement authorities in the countries of destination to allow these consignments to go forward for further investigation there. Customs have no information on the outcome of those investigations.

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