Maputo — The Mozambican police on Tuesday arrested a Vietnamese citizen who was attempting to smuggle 11 rhinoceros horns out of the country in his baggage.
According to a report in Wednesday's issue of the independent daily "O Pais", the horns, weighing 11.9 kilos, were disguised as coils for an electricity generator. But when the authorities at the airport opened the boxes they found no coils, but 11 rhino horns.
Witnessed by reporters, the airport police tried to question the Vietnamese, named in his passport as Nguyen Tien Trung. But he answered no questions, and uttered only the English word "No".
According to his ticket, he intended to fly to Vietnam on Qatar Airways, changing planes in Doha.
The spokesperson for the Maputo City Police Command, Leonel Muchina, said the police will investigate where the horns came from. Since both species of African rhinoceros, the white and the black, are believed extinct in southern Mozambique, it is likely that the horns came from animals poached in a neighbouring country, possibly South Africa.
Muchina suspected that the Vietnamese was only the visible face of an organised crime network. The police would need to track down "a whole series of people probably involved in this whole process of exporting illegal products".
It was less than a fortnight ago that the airport police arrested a Chinese citizen attempting to smuggle nine elephant tusks out of the country.
In both cases the carriers have been arrested - but not whoever gave them their orders.