MAPUTO, Mozambican police say they are investigating how 51 kilogrammes of rhinoceros horn were smuggled out of the country last week on board a Qatar Airways flight.

The rhino horns, inside a crate marked “works of art”, were flown, via the Qatari capital of Doha, to Kuala Lumpur, where they were seized by the Malaysian authorities, acting on a tip-off. There were 18 horns, with an estimated value of 3.1 million US dollars.

At a media briefing here Tuesday, the spokesperson for the General Command of the Mozambican police, Inacio Dina, told journalists that the matter was being “minutely investigated”.

As soon as the police became aware of the seizure in Malaysia, they contacted other relevant authorities at the airport such as the immigration and customs services, to discover how such a large illicit shipment could have been loaded onto the Qatar Airways plane without being spotted.

All cargo at Maputo International Airport should pass through electronic scanners, which should certainly detect something as large and strangely shaped as 18 rhinoceros horns. It should also be an easy matter to discover who was on duty at the airport when the flight to Doha was being loaded.

“If this information is true, we must continue to work to avoid any repetition of this scenario in which illicit products cross our borders”, said Dina. “There are controls at the borders and we are going to work on the information to understand the nature of this particular case”.

He added that the Mozambican authorities were co-operating with Interpol and with the Malaysian police. Such co-ordination, Dina said, “is in order to better understand, prevent and combat all kinds of cross-border crime”.