Maputo — The Mozambican customs service on Thursday seized 130 items of carved ivory, valued at about 36,000 US dollars, that a North Korean citizen named Jong Guk Kim was attempting to smuggle out of the country.
According to a press release from the Mozambican tax authority (AT), Jong was returning to Korea, via South Africa, and had already checked in for his flight, when customs officers intercepted him in the departure lounge of Maputo International Airport, and demanded that he open his hand baggage.
The ivory was hidden in several plastic bags. The 130 carved pieces weighed about three kilos.
Ivory can only be exported with the authorisation of the Ministry of Agriculture – if, as seems more than likely, Jong Kim has no such authorisation, the ivory will be confiscated and revert in favour of the state.
The Korean was also carrying 133,300 US dollars in banknotes in his hand baggage. Under current Mozambican exchange regulations, the maximum that anyone can take out of the country without declaring it is 10,000 dollars.
Anything above this sum must be authorised by the Bank of Mozambique.
Jong Guk Kim must now explain how he obtained this money. If he can prove that it came from a legitimate source, he will be allowed to export it – but only through normal banking channels.
The AT also revealed that it had recently seized in Maputo, seven rhinoceros horns, and about a tonne of abalone. Abalone is a genus of marine mollusks, threatened with extinction, due partly to overfishing, and partly to acidification of the oceans arising from climate change.
The abalones seized in Maputo probably came from South Africa. Abalones occur along much of the South African coast, and the South African authorities require permits for any export of this shellfish.
A tonne of abalone is valued at about five million dollars. It is believed that the ultimate destination of the Maputo abalone was Hong Kong.