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Seized ivory ‘points to syndicate’

Cape Town - Ivory seized at a Table View storage building pointed to organised crime in South Africa, CapeNature biodiversity crime unit manager Paul Gildenhuys said under cross-examination in the Khayelitsha Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday.

All ivory poaching in South Africa was syndicate-driven and the 3 232 African elephant tusks allegedly found in Cheng Jie Liang’s possession were no exception.

FILE PHOTO: Kin Cheung. Credit: AP

Liang is facing charges of illegal possession of elephant tusks and ivory products to the value of about R21 million, to which he has pleaded not guilty.

Gildenhuys said he noticed distinct “M2” and “J” markings on some of the ivory which he had seen in other illegal poaching cases before. “We are dealing with a syndicate here.”

Some of the ivory had already been refined into finished products.

The amount of R21m which Gildenhuys had calculated, was the value of refined and ready-for-purchase ivory.

Defence lawyer Eddie Classen argued that a lot of the ivory was found in its raw state and therefore his calculations were unfair.

However, Gildenhuys said ivory could be sold for up to R118 000 a kilogram in China.

Image enhancement specialist Justin Zimmerman was the next witness called.

He had enhanced four pictures of seven whole, marked elephant tusks.

The pictures were allegedly taken on Liang’s cellphone a day before he was arrested.

The trial continues on Thursday.

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