A 29-year-old Vietnamese man has been detained by the authorities at Changi Airport on Thursday after eight pieces of rhino horn were seized from his luggage. Singapore's Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) said in a joint press release on Friday that it is investigating the case of alleged smuggle of illegal wildlife products through the country along with Singapore Customs and the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA).
The Vietnamese passenger, who was flying from Dubai to Laos via Changi Airport, was stopped and the authorities inspected his luggage. The cut rhino horns, which were concealed as gifts, were found in his luggage and seized.
In Singapore, it is an offence to illegally deal with any illegal wildlife species, including their parts and derivatives, which are protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna or Flora (Cites).
The AVA said the suspect is assisting them with investigations. Under the law, the offenders can be jailed for two years or fined up to $500,000, or both. In addition to this, the convict will have to forfeit the contraband items. In 2014, a man was jailed for 15 months for smuggling eight pieces of rhino horns while in transit through Singapore.
"The Singapore government adopts a zero tolerance stance on the use of Singapore as a conduit to smuggle endangered species and their parts and derivatives. AVA will take stern enforcement actions against any illegal wildlife smugglers," the joint statement said.
The statement added: "While AVA continues to work with border control and partner enforcement agencies to maintain vigilance, tackling illegal wildlife trade requires concerted efforts of all stakeholders, including the public."
The agencies said that members of the public can also take an initiative to protect such endangered animals by not buying wildlife parts and products. They can inform AVA of any suspected cases of illegal wildlife trade and provide information via the online feedback form of the agency or directly calling at 6805 2992. The authorities have assured the public that all information will be kept strictly confidential.