A Dawson City placer miner is crying foul after the RCMP seized his mammoth ivory.
Denis Sevigny, who owns 40 gold claims in the Klondike region, made a deal to sell 45 kilograms of ivory to John Fabien, a carver in Vancouver.
Sevigny hired a truck driver, Rodney Potratz, to bring the ivory to Whitehorse where Fabien would pick it up and hand Potratz a $5,000 cheque. Fabien intended to carve the ivory in time for the winter Olympics.
On January 21, Potratz was arrested in Whitehorse before he had the chance to give Fabien the ivory. He was charged with possession of marijuana, trafficking, and possession of a unauthorized firearm.
But the RCMP also took the mammoth ivory.
Sevigny worried he might have broken the law by selling the ivory. He called the export and import controls bureau and the paleontology office in the Yukon government. Both said there was nothing wrong with the sale.
Sevigny advised Monica Belly at the controls bureau, and Grant Zazula at the paleontology office, to call the RCMP and ask why his ivory was being withheld.
When he called them back, both Belly and Zazula were defensive.
“Upon calling (Belly) back, her response was basically I was a criminal and not to bother her with my situation again,” according to a statement Sevigny made in a letter to the RCMP Public Complaints Commission.
Zazula gave him the same response.
The RCMP officer they had spoken to was Cpl. Jerry Walker.
When Sevigny called him, Walker threatened to charge him with harassment.
“When I told him all I want is my ivory back, his answer was, ‘You’re fucking lucky I don’t charge you on the spot on your way home, I know who you are,’” he said.
Sevigny was charged with drug possession in 1986.
“I said, ‘You know who I was, not who I am now,” he said.
But Walker was having none of it.
“‘Don’t call us again or we’ll charge you with harassment,’ I said ‘Bullshit, my ivory has nothing to do with your criminal investigation,” he said.
Sevigny doesn’t know why his ivory is being withheld, and he filed his complaint earlier this month. He’d prefer being charged with something instead of being left on the hook.
“Everyone was talking to me before he spoke to them,” said Sevigny. “I don’t know what (Walker) said to them, but it’s not making sense to me.”
The police are investigating the ivory, said RCMP spokesperson Sgt. Don Rogers.
Because the ivory was picked up in a truck that contained an illegal fireman and drugs, the police are likely looking for a link between the ivory and those criminal activities.
But Potratz, the man who was arrested, has told police that the ivory isn’t his.
Sevigny even has a letter from Fabien, the buyer, explaining the sale.
That’s not the RCMP’s story.
Potratz told them that the ivory was his, said Rogers in an interview two weeks ago.
“At this point in time it’s still under investigation and hopefully we’ll have some more information in a week,” said Rogers.
But no information has yet been offered.
Sevigny himself is not under investigation, said Rogers.
The mammoth ivory consists of one 30-kilogram tusk and a smaller 14-kilogram tusk, said Sevigny.
He sells the ivory he finds in his placer claims when he has too much.
The rules around selling mammoth ivory are lax. The Yukon’s heritage branch relies on the goodwill of placer miners to declare scientifically valuable tusks. But they’re free to sell the rest.
Sevigny has contacted several agencies and found that he wasn’t breaking any laws in selling the ivory. The only person who has helped him is Klondike MLA Steve Nordick, who advised Sevigny to make a complaint.
“This thing is totally out of whack,” he said.
“It’s like they don’t want to hear about it.”
Contact James Munson at