Rhinoceros horns worth RM13m seized at KLIA

SEPANG: A whopping haul of RM13 million worth of rhinoceros horns was made after Royal Malaysian Customs (RMC) thwarted a smuggling attempt at the KL International Airport (KLIA) – making this the first and biggest haul of the item in the country.

Acting on a tip-off, Customs enforcement officers conducted a thorough search of the cargo warehouse at the Free Trade Zone in KLIA.

"During their search, they found a wooden box and seized it," said KLIA Customs director Datuk Hamzah Sundang.

The box which contained the horns was from Mozambique.

It had been on a Qatar Airways flight from Mozambique, transited in Doha before arriving in Malaysia.

Like in most cases, the shipment's destination in Malaysia was listed as Nilai, Negri Sembilan, which was a fake address according to Hamzah.

"We are unclear whether the final destination of the box was Malaysia or whether it was to be flown out or shipped off to another country but our officers checked the address in Nilai and found it was fake," said Hamzah at a press conference at the KLIA Customs Cargo Complex today.

"It arrived at about 5.40pm last Friday (April 7)," Hamzah said.

Initial investigations revealed that the package was labelled "Obra De Arte" which means objects of art in Portuguese.

Hamzah added that the origin of the rhino horns could be Africa considering that the package originated there.

Hamzah said the horns could be used for medicinal purposes.

The case is being investigated for smuggling of prohibited goods under Section 135 (1)(a) of the Customs Act 1967 which provides for a fine of not less than 10 times the amount of the Customs duty or RM50,000, whichever is the lesser amount, and not more than 20 times the amount of the Customs duty or RM100,000, whichever is greater, or imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years or both.

Rhino horns are composed largely of the protein keratin, also the chief component in hair, fingernails, and animal hooves.

While the rhino horn trade has been banned by a United Nations convention, there continues to be strong demand for it in East Asia, especially China and Vietnam where it is used as a component of traditional Chinese medicines to treat various ailments.

The horns are also craved as trinkets and ornaments.

According to reports, a rhinoceros horn is valued at US$65,000 (RM288,178) per kg in the black market, which is more valuable than cocaine.