Local Auction House In Court Over 'Ivory Ban'

Fined for selling elephant artefact which broke the law


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Chiswick Auctions has been fined in court following the sale of an elephant artefact which was ruled to be in contravention of the law on the sale of ivory.

The item, "an antique carved ivory tusk worked as a train of elephants", was sold two years ago by the auction house to a dealer. Chiswick Auctions said it made a genuine mistake dating the ivory prior to its sale.

The item was spotted on sale at Portobello Market by special constables from the Wildlife Crime Unit during a raid on the market and taken off for forensic examination, which dated the ivory to an elephant that died in the 1960s. Under the law only ivory dated pre-1947 is allowed to be sold.

The manager of the auction house in Colville Road, Mr. William Rouse, who pleaded guilty at Ealing Magistrates Court to the charge, said that it was a genuine mistake. "Auction rooms all over the country are expected to make judgements every day when ivory is brought in (which it is every day) on how old it is.  We made a mistake over the dating of a particular piece by about 15 years – believing the item to be old."

He said he felt they had been made scapegoats in the case and there had been other cases where the fines were lower. "We have been made an example of over a very trivial flouting of a law that should be aimed at people who are actively trading in modern ivory  I have no truck with this law in principle – it is important to protect elephants, but why pick on us?" he commented to chiswickw4.com.

The maximum fine for the charge is £5,000.  Following the guilty plea, the magistrate reduced the fine from £4,500 to £3,200.  The item in question had earned a sum of £100 commission from the sale in 2010 for the auction house.

The item had been valued by a senior dealer who viewed it as 'old ivory' - but under the Control of Trade in Endangered Species ( Enforcement) ( CITES) Regulations 1997, only ivory dated to pre-1947 is allowed.

During a sweep of Portobello market by special constables from the Wildlife Crime Unit and the Arts and Antiques unit, the carving was confiscated and sent for scientific analysis, which dated the ivory to the 1960s. The matter was then passed onto the police and in August 2014, the Wildlife Crime Unit announced that they intended to prosecute the case.

An operation to track down modern ivory or other items from endangered species has been in operation for the past two years, with several raids carried out in Portobello Market. At present the burden is on the seller to prove that the ivory is old.


October 14, 2014 Bookmark and Share