Malaysia seizes US$3.1m worth of rhino horns at airport

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian authorities have seized about US$3.1 million (£2.5 million) worth of rhinoceros horns flown in from Mozambique via Qatar, the latest seizure in Asia of products from endangered species to feed demand for traditional remedies, officials said on Monday.

Malaysia is a major transit point for the trade in endangered species to other Asian countries although a customs official told Reuters Malaysia was believed to have been the final destination of the 18 horns.

Customs officials at Kuala Lumpur International Airport found the more than 51 kg (112 lb) of horns on Friday, after a tip-off, packed in wooden crates in a cargo warehouse, airport customs director Hamzah Sundang told a news conference.

The horns had been shipped to Malaysia via Doha, Qatar, on a Qatar Airways flight, using false documents and declared “Obra de arte” or “objects of art”, Hamzah said.

“The address of the consignee and the agent of the recipient didn’t exist. All the documentation used for the shipment were false,” Hamzah told the news conference at the airport customs complex.

No suspects had been detained and investigations were continuing, he said.

The office of Qatar Airways in Kuala Lumpur did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In January, 846 kg (1,860 lb) of ivory tusks were seized at the airport, media reported.

Global trade in rhino horn is banned by a U.N. convention, but it is prized in some Asian countries as an ingredient in traditional medicines to treat everything from fever to cancer.

Last month, Thai authorities confiscated nearly US$5 million worth of rhino horns in the country’s biggest such seizure in years.

(Reporting by Rozanna Latiff; Editing by Robert Birsel)

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