Kathmandu, March 30

The Central Investigation Bureau of Nepal Police has arrested two Chinese nationals, who were allegedly involved in smuggling body parts of protected species to Nepal from Africa.

The suspects of international wildlife smuggling ring are Qiu Guorong, 40, and Que Lebao, 34. SP Jeevan Shrestha, CIB spokesperson, said 162 kilograms of pangolin scales were seized from the duo. It is the single-largest haul of pangolin scales in Nepal.

The Chinese nationals, who arrived in Kathmandu from Istanbul on a Turkish Airlines flight yesterday, were found carrying the pangolin scales during an X-ray screening of their luggage in Red Channel Area of Tribhuvan International Airport Customs Office.

“Our investigation shows that they bought the pangolin body parts in Congo of Africa and took the air route of Istanbul-Kathmandu,” he informed, adding that the Chinese nationals had made Nepal the transit point of the contraband.

“We have established a transnational connection to this wildlife smuggling rink jointly by run by Congolese, Chinese, Bangladeshi and Nepali citizens. CIB is coordinating with the Interpol for more information about the foreigners associated with the smuggling racket,” SP Shrestha added. Though the Chinese national were handed over to District Forest Office, Kathmandu, for legal action under the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act, it sought help of the CIB for further investigation as per the Prevention of Organised Crime Act.

Anyone involved in the trade of protected species may be slapped with a fine up to Rs 100,000 and a jail term of five to 15 years in accordance with the NPWC Act. If a transnational crime is committed with the involvement of two or more members of the same gang, police may proceed action against them under the POC Act to demand a jail sentence of 20 years, along with property attachment.

Pangolin scales fetch around USD 3,000 per kg in the international black market. Pangolin scales are in high demand in Asian markets, especially China, as they are used in manufacturing bulletproof jackets and traditional Chinese medicine, a police source said.  Chinese people believe that pangolin scales can heal swelling, increase blood circulation and help mothers produce milk.

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species has categorised the animal in Appendix I, which bans international trade in the species.