A South London pair have been jailed for illegally selling antique ivory fans worth £145,259 on eBay.
The illegal trade was uncovered in November 2017 when Royal Mail intercepted two parcels at Heathrow Airport. Destined for China, the parcels contained carved ivory fans for which there were no re-export permits. The discovery was escalated all the way from Border Force to the National Wildlife Crime Unit. Officers matched the sender of the parcel to a trader selling carved ivory items on eBay.
The traders, Guy Buckle and Sik-Hung Or, from Champion Hill in London, exported 136 carved ivory fans to buyers in China, Hong Kong and the US between January 2014 and November 2017. The pair failed to obtain the necessary re-export permits issued by the Animal and Plant Health Agency. The fans could have been lawfully sold as antiques in the UK without need for a permit.
Officers from Scotland Yard’s wildlife crime unit raided the pair’s flat in March 2018 and discovered a further 291 carved ivory fans from protected or endangered species. They also seized four pieces of unworked elephant ivory and found a spreadsheet detailing the 136 pieces that had already been sold on eBay.
Buckle and Or were sentenced to 28 months’ imprisonment by the Inner London Crown Court on 23 September 2019. They had pleaded guilty to three counts of illegally exporting ivory goods with intent to evade a restriction in contravention of the Customs and Excise Management Act 1979.
Head of the investigation, Detective Constable Sarah Bailey, said she hoped “the sentencing highlights that this type of activity is illegal and acts as a deterrent to those involved in the illegal sale and export of such items”.
Since 2017, the US and China have banned ivory imports. eBay has self-imposed a ban on selling ivory on its site for over a decade. A High Court hearing on the Ivory Act 2018, which would introduce an outright ban on trading in worked ivory of all ages in the UK as well as export from or to the UK, is due to take place sometime in October 2019.