Tamba Kaba Ivory Smuggling Conviction
Defendant Tamba Kaba, who operated a business importing and selling African handicrafts, smuggled two shipments of elephant ivory carvings -- one from Uganda and one from Nigeria -- that appeared to contain wooden and metal African handicrafts. He was arrested in November 2009, after a joint investigation by special agents from the Service Office of Law Enforcement and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Kaba pleaded not guilty to two felony smuggling counts and a felony Lacey Act charge and stood trial in Brooklyn this past June. The jury convicted him on all three charges. Witnesses called by the prosecution included an expert who testified that the smuggled carvings were recently manufactured items made from newly obtained ivory that that had been carved in older styles and stained to look old. (Ivory smuggled by other defendants in this investigation had also been "disguised" to appear old.)
African elephants are protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and the African Elephant Conservation Act; the species is also listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Global ivory trade has been regulated since the 1970s, and the United States has prohibited the commercial importation of non-antique African elephant ivory for over two decades.