An International Pangolin Scales Trafficking Gang Dismantled

6 traffickers were arrested with more than 700 kg of pangolin scales in a crackdown on a syndicate involving DRC, CAR, Cameroon and Nigeria dealing in rhino horns and lion parts as well in connection to Vietnam.

A couple of days to the operation, one of the traffickers sent a truck with pangolin scales from Bangui, which arrived Douala shortly after he had flown to the port city.  The contraband was then driven in two cars to a neighborhood in the town, where an illegal transaction was about to take place, but all 6 traffickers were swiftly arrested in a police operation, assisted by LAGA team. One of them attempted to escape but was quickly stopped.

The international network has been monitored several months, it was operating in four central African countries including Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Republic of Central Africa and Nigeria. One of the 6 arrested is from the Central African Republic while the rest are Cameroonians.

The exposed modus operandi of the syndicate consisted of buying the scales from smaller traffickers in Cameroon, the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and exporting to Nigeria via Cameroon. When the scales arrived to Nigeria, they were assembled for illegal export to Asia. Most of the 700 kg of giant pangolin scales originated from the DRC where they had strong cover from members of the ruling elite.

The traffickers are also linked to rhino horn and lion trophies trafficking, these criminal activities are under investigation.

Central Africa region is considered to be a hotspot for sourcing illegal pangolin scales which are exported mainly to Asian countries. Over the years several tons of pangolin scales have been seized in Asian cities, originated from the region. In January 2017 two Chinese nationals were arrested in Cameroon with over 5 tons of pangolin scales ready for illegal export - the largest seizure of pangolin scales in central Africa so far.