Jail for Spalding trader who dealt in illegal ivory
A Spalding-based eBay trader who was caught with two unworked sections of elephant tusk after police raided his home was jailed for nine months.
Slawomir Kazmierczak (55) was also found to have illegal items of ivory jewellery made from elephants which were killed after the 1947 legal deadline.
A judge told Kazmierczak that the illegal trade in ivory "fed the destruction of elephants."
A new UK Ivory Act, seen as one of the world’s toughest clampdowns on ivory sales, was passed in December and is due to take effect later this year. But antique lobbyists who want to continue dealing in pre-1947 ivory are challenging the ban in a judicial review in the High Court, arguing it is incompatible with EU law.
Under the new law, trading in all worked ivory is being halted, including items that pre-dated 1947, which previously could be legally bought and sold.
Lincoln Crown Court heard Kazmierczak was caught in February 2017 after the National Wildlife Crime Unit seized two parcels sent by him to Hong Kong and China. The packages "purported" to contain jewellery but were in fact a necklace, pendant and bangle all made from ivory and valued at £153.
Kazmierczak was warned his actions were prohibited but he continued to trade and the Border Force intercepted two further parcels sent by him in April 2017.
Esther Harrison, prosecuting, said the items were labelled "wooden carvings" in a deliberate attempt to evade a further seizure. In reality, they contained three ivory brushes, two vases and 15 pieces of worked ivory for which Kazmierczak admitted receiving £1,000.
Police raided Kazmierczak's Spalding home a month later and seized two unworked pieces of elephant tusk, two ivory bracelets and an ivory figurine. Carbon dating of the bracelets showed the ivory came from an elephant killed after 1960, and the figurine was carved out of ivory from an elephant killed after 1955.
Analysis of Kazmierczak's laptop revealed photos of ivory items, Google translation text offering items for sale and mention of items removed from sale by eBay.
In police interview Kazmierczak claimed he thought the material was bone. Kazmierczak told officers he began trading on eBay after he was badly injured in a car crash and could not work to support his wife and four children. But the court heard Kazmierczak now accepted the items were ivory.
Passing sentence, Judge Simon Hirst told Kazmierczak that his offending comfortably passed the custodial threshold. "The harmful aspect of your offence is very clear indeed," Judge Hirst said. "Without an illegal ivory market there would be no need for the capture of elephants in the wild. That market feeds the destruction of elephants."
The judge told Kazmierczak he had also taken steps clearly designed to deceive the authorities. "You were trading in ivory over a period of months, even after you were warned it was unlawful."
At an earlier hearing Kazmierczak, of Redthorne Close, pleaded guilty through a Polish interpreter to nine charges relating to the protection of endangered species (1997 Act). Two of the charges related to Kazmierczak purchasing prohibited sections of unworked elephant tusk between May 2013 and May 2017.
Kazmierczak also admitted buying three other prohibited items including an ivory bracelet and an ivory figurine, and four charges of fraudulently evading a prohibition on other ivory items including a necklace, pendant, bangle and three ivory brushes. All the charges occured between May 2013 and April 2017.
The number of elephants in the wild is believed to have declined by almost a third in the past decade, and an estimated 20,000 a year are killed to meet the global demand for ivory.
In 2016 Prince William voiced his support for a crackdown, warning the African elephant will have disappeared from the wild by the time his daughter, Princess Charlotte, turns 25.
The new law will ban the trade in most ivory objects of any age. The maximum available penalty for breaching the ban will be an unlimited fine or up to five years in jail.