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Last Updated: Wednesday, 7 February 2007, 14:26 GMT
Two held in Japan over ivory haul
Japan was the second biggest legal importer of ivory before the ban
Two brothers have been arrested in Japan on suspicion of trying to smuggle a record three tons of ivory into the country in defiance of a world ban.

The ivory haul, estimated to come from some 100 elephants, was found in a cargo container in Osaka last August.

Hiroyuki Tada, 42, and his brother Daisuke, 28, were detained after months of police investigations.

In 1989, ivory trading was banned under a global treaty to protect the world's endangered elephant populations.

Police are investigating the origin of the shipment, which arrived in the western Japanese port of Osaka from Malaysia via South Korea, they said.

They had disguised [the shipment] to look like artificial marble
Police statement

The two brothers are alleged to have been the intended receivers of the cargo.

"The customs officials confiscated about three tons of elephant ivory after screening the ship's cargo, which they had disguised to look like artificial marble," police said on Wednesday.

The haul was the largest amount of ivory seized since the ban was introduced, an Osaka customs official said.

A shipment of about two tons was found in Okinawa in 1991, he said.

The 1989 Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) banned the sale of ivory in most circumstances, but elephant tusks are still used in East Asia for handicrafts and carved name seals.

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