MAPUTO– The Mozambican authorities have detained the driver of a container which was opened at Maputo port on Thursday and found to contain huge quantities of elephant tusks.

The police have also detained the Customs broker who had handled the container and five other containers from the same company, the Chinese-owned Newlite, which has premises in Beluluane, on the outskirts of Maputo.

Other port drivers demonstrated inside the port premises against the detention of their colleague on Friday, claiming he could not possibly have known what was inside the container.

Meanwhile, the Mozambican Tax Authority (AT) has weighed the ivory, and discovered that there are many more tusks than initially thought. According to AT media officer Fernando Tinga, there are a total of 867 tusks, weighing about 3.5 tonnes.

Tinga confirmed that this is the largest seizure of ivory in Mozambican history. These are tusks from 434 poached elephants, and it is not yet clear where or when the elephants were killed.

The ivory was discovered during what the AT described as a routine inspection by scanner of the containers. The export documents said they contained polypropylene resin, which is used to make a wide range of plastic products. It was supposedly being exported to Cambodia.

inspection of the containers revealed no resin at all. Instead there were large quantities of used plastic items, apparently being sent for recycling in Asia,

And in one of the six containers, the ivory was found, hidden among the used plastic items. All export of ivory, raw or worked, is banned under Mozambican law.

The independent television station STV investigated the Newlite company and found the premises, in an otherwise deserted part of Beluluane, surrounded by a high wall topped with barbed wire, with the gates firmly locked. There was no sign of anybody on the premises.