More than three months after authorities at the Sihanoukville Autonomous Port confiscated the largest haul of ivory ever seized in Cambodia—more than 3 tons worth millions of dollars—the investigation into it remains stalled and secretive.
Customs officials have said that they are waiting for orders from the Ministry of Finance to proceed with the investigation, but say the ministry has plans to exhibit the more than 500 tusks at the National Museum.
“We did not send the ivory case to court yet because we are waiting on the decision from higher level officials,” said Kin Ly, chief of customs and excise at the port. He said guarding the ivory, which could be worth upwards of $7 million at black market prices, was proving a burden on staff.
“We have to use more than 100 officers to guard it,” Mr. Ly said. “We do not want to keep it here.”
Ouch Anutaro, chief of legal affairs at the department of customs and excise in Phnom Penh, said that the case had been forwarded to the Ministry of Economy and Finance.
“The general department of customs and excise and the Ministry of Economy and Finance have a plan to bring that ivory to exhibit at the [National] Museum in the future,” Mr. Anutaro said.
So far, the investigation has found that the 3,008 kg of ivory originated in Kenya and was shipped to Sihanoukville via Malaysia stashed inside two containers supposedly containing beans.
Olair Worldwide Logistics consigned the illicit cargo, which was discovered on May 9. Mr. Ly, the official at the port, declined to say if Olair was being investigated. However, an official at the company, who would not reveal his name, claimed Monday that his firm had been absolved of liability in the case.
“[Olair] did not clear those goods for import or export,” he said. “The customs department said that another company had used our name to send the ivory and that our company is not involved, but they will not tell me the other company’s name.”