Tanzanian authorities profess to being unaware as: Vietnam seeks to auction smuggled elephant tusks -Consignment worth over 40bn/- said to have originated from port of Dar es Salaam THISDAY REPORTER Dar es Salaam AS authorities in Vietnam move ahead with plans to auction elephant tusks smuggled from Tanzania worth a whopping $29.41m (approx.40bn/-), the government in Dar es Salaam has said it is completely unaware of the whole situation. In other words, Tanzania stands to lose billions of shillings if the Vietnamese government decides to actually implement its plan to put some 6,232 kilogrammes of the jumbo tusks from the country under the hammer. Both the relevant ministry and the police in Dar es Salaam yesterday admitted that they were not even aware that more than six tonnes of elephant tusks were smuggled from the Dar es Salaam Port to Vietnam in January this year. The Deputy Minister for Tourism and Natural Resources, Ezekiel Maige, told THISDAY in an interview yesterday in Dar es Salaam that his ministry was completely in the dark about the massive cargo of Tanzanian tusks seized recently in Vietnam. ''This is new information to us at the ministry. I will consult the relevant officials in the wildlife department to find out more details,'' said Maige. He said however, that according to international agreements, wherever animal trophies are illegally exported or imported from one country to another, the consignment is seized, the smuggler(s) arrested, and the consignment is auctioned. According to Maige, revenue earned from the auction is then divided according to any standing agreements between the country where the consignment originated and the country of destination. He said international agreements like the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES) are intended to protect animal species from being poached illegally and traded without following prescribed procedures. On his part, the Director of Wildlife in the Ministry of Tourism and Natural Resources, Erasmus Tarimo, also said he was not aware about the smuggled Tanzanian elephant tusks seized in Vietnam and now being prepared for auctioning. ''I am currently out of the country. I have not come across such reports and, in any case, I doubt whether such a thing could happen without Vietnam informing Tanzania,'' he said. Tarimo explained that in the event of animal trophies smuggled from one country being seized in another, international law dictates that the trophies are either destroyed or preserved,as may be agreed by the two countries involved. Both the Director of Criminal Investigations (DCI), Robert Manumba, and his deputy Peter Kivuyo meanwhile also said they were unaware of the smuggled tusks. ''The criminal investigation department has not received such information. However, we will contact Interpol in order to see if we can get more details,''said Kivuyo. Latest media reports from Vietnam quoted a senior customs agency official in Hai Phong City, Vu Hoang Duong, as saying yesterday that the illegally-imported batch of elephant tusks from Tanzania may be auctioned after the Vietnamese Institute for Ecology and Natural Resources completes certain tests. The tusks, packed in 114 cardboard boxes and totaling 1,244 pieces, were seized by customs authorities from a ship anchored at the Hai Phong Port. So far, Vietnamese authorities are said to have been unable to contact the director of Phuc Thien Ngan company, Vu Ngoc Tuan, who is the registered consignee of the tusks. However, one local newspaper said it interviewed Tuan in his office on Monday this week. According to the newspaper, Tuan said he knew nothing of the tusks, and that he had no business relationship with the sender of the tusks. He said authorities have not been able to contact him because he has been busy in recent days. According to the Vietnamese customs officials, the consignment of tusks initially left the port of Dar es Salaam in late January this year, was transported by sea via Malaysia, and finally landed at the Dinh Vu Port in Hai Phong on February 28. In the bill of lading, it was described as a consignment of plastic waste. Investigations by the Hai Phong customs agency later established that a person named 'P' submitted a letter of introduction for the Phuc Thien Ngan company to the customs office to fulfill import formalities for the consignment. It is now feared that an international smuggling network may have orchestrated the whole scam, with Vietnam probably just another point of transit.