Swiss customs seize 578 pounds of ivory in suitcases dispatched from Tanzania to Beijing

Swiss authorities say customs officials at Zurich airport have seized 262 kilograms (578 pounds) of ivory that three Chinese men had dispatched from Tanzania.

Switzerland's customs authority said Tuesday that the ivory — found during a security check on July 6 and packed in eight suitcases — had an estimated black market value of about 400,000 francs ($413,000).

The elephant tusks had been sawed into pieces to fit into the luggage, which was being transported from Dar es Salaam to Beijing via Zurich. The suitcases also contained 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds) of lion fangs and claws.

Demand from China's rising middle class has been fueling illegal trade in ivory. Swiss customs said the Chinese men could face large fines.