On Trail of Largest African Ivory Seizure in 25 Years, Locating Suspected Kingpin in Vietnam

A Vietnamese timber trader wanted by authorities in Togo and by INTERPOL in connection with a historic African ivory trafficking case is living in Ho Chi Minh City, National Geographic has uncovered.

The January 2014 ivory trafficking case involves the largest ivory seizure on the African continent since a global ivory ban took effect in 1990. The suspect, Dao Van Bien, and his wife run a major timber import operation in Vietnam, and Dao continues to travel to West Africa despite an Interpol red notice seeking his apprehension for suspected involvement in an attempt to smuggle a record-setting quantity of ivory out of Togo last January.

On January 23 and 29, 2014, Togolese authorities at the Port of Lome intercepted containers that were part of a Vietnam-bound timber shipment and discovered tons of illegal ivory tusks representing hundreds of dead African elephants hidden inside the metal containers. (See “Togo Makes Second Record Ivory Seizure.”)

Agents with Togo’s Office Against Narcotics and Money Laundering (OCTRIB) seized 4.2 tons (3.8 metric tons) of ivory, representing an estimated 380 or more elephants.

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