Woman fined £1,400 after admitting making thousands selling ivory on eBay

Joyce Bell, 67, had claimed to be selling items made from bovine bone.

Woman fined £1,400 after admitting making thousands selling ivory on eBay Getty Images

A woman has been fined £1,400 after she admitted making thousands of pounds from selling elephant ivory on eBay.

Joyce Bell, 67, sold about 100 items made with ivory from elephant tusks on the online auction site over a number of years, making a total of £6,412.

When she was arrested in December 2022, she initially claimed the items were costume jewellery and other goods made from bovine bone, and that she had not been selling them for profit.

However, in May 2024, she pleaded guilty to the sale of ivory in 2022 in breach of the Ivory Act, which came into force the same year.

This is understood to be the first conviction in Scotland under the Ivory Act, which brought in a near-total ban on the import, export and dealing of items containing elephant ivory.

She also admitted fraudulently evading export duties by failing to obtain export licences for goods being shipped overseas.

At Dundee Sheriff Court on Monday, Sheriff George Way acknowledged it was Bell’s first offence, and that she seemed to be “genuinely remorseful” for her actions.

Ivory ornamentCOPFS

He also said she “didn’t quite realise the implications of the trade in ivory. It has many other ramifications but that might not always be obvious when dealing in bits and pieces”.

He added: “At the end of the day, the trade in these items is generated by money. If they weren’t valuable to some people, then, there wouldn’t be the illegal trade, and there wouldn’t be the poaching and the horrible things we know about.”

He ordered Bell, who is from Dundee, to pay a £1,400 fine plus tax and a victim surcharge of £75.

Bell, dressed in a white blouse, showed no reaction as the sentence was handed down.

At the previous hearing in May, prosecutor Karon Rollo explained that Bell first came to the attention of the authorities in March 2022 when Border Force staff at Heathrow Airport became suspicious that packages she was sending to China contained elephant ivory.

Ivory ornament braceletCOPFS

She was arrested in December 2022 following an investigation by the National Wildlife Crime Unit, which found she had used multiple eBay accounts to sell the items.

Ms Rollo told the court that when advertising the items, Bell photographed them with a set of scales, which would have told collectors that the items were ivory rather than bovine bone, as ivory is much heavier.

She also said that following her arrest Bell admitted receiving letters from customs advising her she needed export licences for the packages she was sending overseas, but that she had ignored them.

Ivory necklaceCOPFS

The prices she was recording on the packages she was sending were also found to be far lower than what the goods had actually sold for.

Bell was fined £1,400 after pleading guilty to offences under the Customs and Excise Management Act 1979 and Ivory Act 2018.

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