Diplomat received rhino horns
Hanoi – Vietnam recalled a diplomat from South Africa after television footage showed her receiving illegal rhino horns, the Foreign Ministry said on Thursday.
A South African TV network aired images on Monday that showed a female Vietnamese embassy staffer talking to a known rhino horn smuggler in front of the embassy in Pretoria. He handed her a horn and she then headed into the embassy, smiling.
“The consistent policy of Vietnam is to actively protect wild animals and strictly ban illegal trade of wild animals,” the ministry said in a statement sent to The Associated Press. “The Foreign Ministry has decided to recall Mrs Vu Moc Anh, an embassy staffer, and clarify the affair.”
Those involved in the illegal trade of wild animals will be dealt with in accordance with Vietnamese laws and international conventions, the statement said.
Anh denied she had purchased any rhino horns, but acknowledged she received three horns for two other Vietnamese nationals, the Youth newspaper quoted ambassador Tran Duy Thi as saying on Thursday.
The Mail and Guardian newspaper – quoting an unidentified member of a government investigating team – last week reported that Vietnamese embassy staff were suspected of involvement in rhino horn trafficking and using diplomatic pouches to smuggle horns to the Far East.
“Most fingers point to Vietnamese syndicates, which have sought to monopolise the rhino horn trade in recent years,” the report said.
More than 40 rhinos have been killed at national parks this year alone, the newspaper said.
Rhino horn is considered a valuable ingredient in traditional Chinese medicine and is used to treat fever, high blood pressure and other ailments.