A Napier man told potential traders of his illegal ivory to get their story straight in a bid to hide their illegal activity.

However, Patrick Cooper's illegal activity was caught when quarantine inspectors found a box containing a large antique carving.

Cooper was fined $8000 when he was sentenced in the Napier District Court yesterday on five charges of trading in a specimen of an endangered species without the appropriate permit or certificate granted under any of sections 13 to 16 of the Trade in Endangered Species Act 1989.

He was also ordered to pay $600 towards the cost of DNA testing carried out on the imported items.

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Cooper is only the second person in New Zealand to be convicted of illegally trading in ivory.

He runs a jade and native wood-carving business in Hawke's Bay where he states on the website all material is sourced from "only the best quality New Zealand jade".

Authorities were first alerted to the illegal trading on June 7, 2012, during a routine inspection of mail arriving into the country, a summary of facts states.

Despite being declared as "ornament, resin", DNA testing revealed it was instead elephant ivory, specifically Loxodonta Africana, an African elephant. The antique carving was purchased from France for $3,548.51.

Cooper asked the sender to post it with an "appropriate customs declaration eg $150" and to call it a "resin ornament".

Another antique which he bought on eBay for $151.35 was seized when his house was searched in July that same year.


Cooper listed it on Trade Me twice, for less than $1000, but it failed to sell both times. The authorities also recovered illegal items from Cooper's Trade Me customers.

The fifth charge was a representative one based on information from emails. The emails showed he had imported about 20 ivory items worth about $18,000 over a period of two months.

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Cooper's behaviour on eBay and Trade Me, which both have a ban on selling ivory products, showed he won more than 60 auctions where the items were described using common "code words", "ox bone" or "faux ivory", the summary of facts states.

Defence counsel Scott Jefferson said, while Cooper's actions were similar to New Zealand's first illegal ivory trading criminal Jiezhen Jiang, who was fined $12,000, Cooper deserved a smaller fine.

Judge Tony Adeane said Cooper had no other previous convictions and was "well thought of in the community".

Crown prosecutor Brett Tantrum said Cooper had shown a "deliberate course of offending" and secondly that there was evidence of deception found in emails between him and fellow importers in which he wrote: "You and I know what we are doing ... we have to get our stories straight."

The court heard that Cooper purchased the items to further expand his personal collection and to on-sell as part of his existing antique collection.

National intelligence and liaison officer Dylan Swain said: "The conviction of Mr Cooper is a message to would-be traders that it's not worth the risk."

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African and Asian elephants are endangered species and a ban on trading ivory was imposed in 1989 by 175 countries that are parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna.

Importing, exporting or re-exporting any part of a protected species without appropriate permits is an offence.