In Dec 2019, the Met Police Wildlife Crime Unit received intelligence from UK Border Force, via the National Wildlife Crime Unit, regarding the seizure of a postal package containing an object believed carved from elephant ivory that was destined for export to China.
Notification was given of a further two seizures made by Border Force in January and February 2020, bound for Hong Kong – in total 5 ivory items were intercepted from the same exporter – Kostadin SHTEREV of Burnt Ash Hill, Lewisham.
The items were being advertised/sold via ebay and enquiries with ebay showed he’d been selling and exporting ivory items for several years. Enquiries were carried out via the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) and it was ascertained that no re-export permits had ever been applied for by the exporter.
An APHA Wildlife Inspector examined the seized items and confirmed they were likely to be derived from elephant ivory but due to the colour could not rule out the fact that they may be mammoth ivory (not illegal). The OIC submitted one seized item to the labaroatory at SASA (Science & Advice for Scottish Agriculture) for forensic tests to be conducted – this confirmed it was elephant ivory, rather than mammoth, as it detected DNA from Asian elephant.
Upon interview, SHTEREV admitted to selling the antique items and attempting to send them outside the EU without the required permits. The case was put to the CPS and SHTEREV was charged on 15th January 2023 with four counts of illegal export of ivory contrary to the Customs & Excise Management Act 1979.
At the first appearance on 10 March 2023, SHTEREV pleaded guilty at Bromley Magistrates Court to the four charges. He was sentenced at Bexley Magistrates court on 3rd April 2023 as follows:
- 3 months imprisonment x2 – suspended for 12 months
- 180 hours unpaid work
- £2,072 costs to HMRC for unpaid re-export permits
- £85 costs
- £154 surcharge
- Seized ivory items to be retained by police for awareness raising/educational purposes