KOTA KINABALU (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Some 8,000kg of pangolin scales worth a whopping RM100 million (S$31.76 million) in illicit trade have been seized at the Sepanggar Bay container port by Malaysian custom officers.
Sabah Customs and Excise Department director Datuk Janathan Kandok said on Friday (Aug 11) that the pangolin scales were found in 266 gunny sacks owned by a private company that was meant for export on July 29.
He said a 43-year-old local man, the owner of the company, has been detained.
"Our initial investigations show that the scales were on its way to China," he said at a press conference at Wisma Kastam Sabah.
Janathan said it was uncertain if the scales were from local pangolins, and did not rule out the possibility that it was smuggled from neighbouring countries.
He said it is estimated that the scales came from some 16,000 pangolins, which is an endangered species.
Pangolin scales are used for medicinal purposes and food, and are in high demand for their yet-to-be proven aphrodisiac value.
Janathan said the suspect had hidden the scales under various types of marine shells.
However, on closer examination, Customs officers discovered the pangolin scales in the sacks.
Janathan said investigations are being carried out under Section 135(1)(a) of the Customs Act 1967 for exporting banned goods.