URAWA, Saitama Pref. – Two men have been arrested on suspicion of smuggling about 500 kg of ivory from Singapore into Japan, police said Wednesday.
Yau Kwok Lam, 42, a British national from Hong Kong, and Yoichiro Ishida, 51, were taken into custody after receiving shipments of ivory hidden in boxes of chopsticks bound for Kawaguchi, Saitama Prefecture, police said.
Yau told police that a Chinese man offered him 1 million yen to smuggling the ivory into Japan, police said.
Ishida, who manufactures processed ivory products, has denied the allegations, police said.
Police said they believe a foreign criminal organization may be behind the alleged smuggling.
According to authorities, 132 pieces of cut ivory were hidden among 300 boxes of chopsticks shipped from Singapore to Kobe port.
The ivory is believed to have come from endangered African elephants.
The pieces found in the shipment made up some 27 tusks, police said.
A customs official who inspected the shipment discovered the ivory and notified police, telling them the shipment was to be forwarded to Kawaguchi.
International trade in ivory was banned in 1990 under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.