Customs officers have seized 24,697 sheets of dried python skins from a warehouse in south China.
Sixteen suspects were arrested during the raid on January 29 in Haikou city. They are now under investigation, according to the People’s Daily Online. More after the cut…
It has taken until March 20 for officers to count and register every single piece of smuggled skin, which is reported be worth a total of 310 million Yuan (£33 million).
In an investigation called ‘Operation Anaconda’, the Haikou authorities busted the suspects along with the skins, which were piled high on top of each other. According to the report, the skins are from a protected species and have been imported from Vietnam at a low cost since 2014.
They were to be distributed on China’s black market, where they would be sold for fashion or medicinal purposes. The operation came as a result of an anonymous tipoff according to 163.com.
The suspects arrested reportedly used fake companies, filed false customs declarations and managed to dodge around 11 million Yuan (£1.1 million) in taxes. After a year-long investigation, the officers uncovered the entire smuggling chain, and active gangs who smuggled python skins surfaced in Guangxi and Hainan.
This is believed to be the largest seizure of trafficked python skins in the history of the country. If found guilty of smuggling, the 16 suspects could face up to life imprisonment. Smuggling is strictly forbidden in China and carries harsh consequences and punishments. Currently, the case is under further investigation.