Malaysia seizes big shipment of rhino horns at airport
Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) customs director Hamzah Sundang (2nd R) poses with rhino horns that were seized on April 7 from Mozambique to Kuala Lumpur via Doha, during a news conference at the airport in Sepang, Malaysia April 10, 2017. Reuters

Malaysian enforcement officials have seized 18 rhinoceros horns imported from Mozambique, weighing 51.4kg and worth RM13.7 million (S$4.3 million), a senior customs official said on Monday.

Hamzah Sundang, airport customs director said in a statement that the officials acting on a tip-off discovered the horns in a wooden crate at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport cargo terminal last Friday. This recent haul is an indication that Malaysia has become an Asian transit hub for the illicit ivory and rhino horn trade.

Hamzah added that the crate, listed as containing art objects, was imported from Mozambique on board a Qatar Airways flight which transited in Doha before arriving in Malaysia. According to him, the destination was listed as being in the town of Nilai in Malaysia's southern state of Negeri Sembilan but it was a false address.

Rhino horn has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years. The horns are also carved into highly prized libation cups. It is an offence to import rhino horns without a licence under Malaysian law.

Last year in April, Malaysia destroyed 9.5 tonnes of elephant ivory that it had seized over the years. The move was believed to be intended to deter smugglers, who have long used the country as a trans-shipment point.

Earlier, Malaysia had announced in parliament that almost 4,624 ivory tusks were confiscated between 2011 and 2014.

Reports say that ivory from African elephants is typically smuggled to Asia where it is carved into ornaments.

Hamzah also said that 2.12kg of ketamine worth RM94.4 million was confiscated at the airport's budget terminal from a foreigner who arrived last Wednesday from Chennai in India.

"During an X-ray of the man's bag, we found white crystals which we believe was ketamine," Hamzah told AFP. He added that the case was being investigated under the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952 which carries a mandatory death penalty upon conviction.