Over 2,000 kilos of coral, illegal animal products found in Brabant wildlife crime investigation

Brabant warehouse filled with illegal coral and animal products discovered by police, Aug 2016 (Photo: Politie). (Brabant warehouse filled with illegal coral and animal products discovered by police, Aug 2016 (Photo: Politie))

The Dutch authorities discovered over 2 thousand kilograms of coral, skins, skulls and bones of protected and endangered animals in a office building and five warehouses in Brabant. This "record" discovery was made in a wildlife crime investigation launched after the discovery 345 kilos of coral in a shipping container in Rotterdam, the police said in a statement on Monday. According to the police, the financial value of the found items is probably in the hundreds of thousands of euros. The damage to the environment is "unprecedented". It took the authorities three days to search through the bags, crates and boxes in the office building and separate the legal merchandise from the illegal material. The over 2 thousand kilos of illegal material includes coral, snake skins, lizard skins, turtle skulls, monkey skulls, bones of several different animals and ivory jewelry. The police also found 500 thousand euros in cash and gold in various safes on the premises. That was seized on suspicion of money laundering. Finally around 2 thousand counterfeit items were found and confiscated. The police tracked down the company after Customs officers in the port of Rotterdam discovered 345 kilograms of coral and 400 pieces of counterfeit goods in a container from China. There was no license to ship the coral, so the police was called. The investigation led to the company in Brabant. Peter Hartog, project leader of the Rotterdam police's environmental team, is appalled by the nature and extent of this discovery. "The coral alone: coral reefs are the rain forests of the oceans and are seriously threatened. Permits of corals are hardly ever granted, so you don't see it for sale anywhere. In this search we found a complete coral reef. Coral grows between 1 and 25 millimeters per year, and fan coral even sower. What we found here are pieces of coral hundreds of years old."