London's exclusive Royal China Club was found to stock illegally imported shark fins that were later confiscated and destroyed by Trading Standards.

The Chinese restaurant, which is hailed as a favourite amongst Londoners, came under scrutiny by the Westminster City Council after its marketing manager, Jason Chan, admitted to selling the shark fin soup amongst other exotic items not listed on the menu.

In an interview with The Independent in January, Chan said several ingredients used in the restaurants are brought in the country in suitcases to bypass inquiries.

"If they were sent over, they'd get confiscated," said Chen.

After the marine conservation charity Bite-Back complained to the local council, an inquiry confirmed the suspicions.

"The parallels between the trade in ivory and shark fins are huge and the fact that the Royal China Club has now been caught illegally importing fins to the UK is a further evidence of the corrupt industry behind this controversial menu item," said Graham Buckingham, campaign director at Bite-Back.

Against the UK import law, shark fins were being imported by the London restaurant from Hong Kong.

"The council undertook an investigation and discovered that they imported the produce through an unapproved channel and as such we have taken appropriate action against the restaurant," said a Westminster City Council officer.

Other off menu items being served at the restaurant, included abalone and sea cucumber.

According to the World Wildlife Fund, over 73 million sharks are reportedly killed each year due to the growing demand for fins in Asia.

Animal rights groups have strongly criticized restaurants serving the shark fin soups since the fins are taken off live sharks that are then left to die.

"The Chinese traditionally eat shark's fin soup at special occasions such as weddings. It has also become a popular dish to be consumed at business banquets or dinner parties. It has appeared on the menus of Imperial China since the Sung dynasty (960 AD)," said Ching He-Huang, a food writer and television chef, reported Bloomberg News.

"It's not reasonable to judge another's food choice, but the cruelty of this fishing is unquestionable and it's our responsibility to safeguard all endangered species, which leads me to believe there should be a total worldwide ban."

Shark fin soup
Cutting the fins off from the body of the sharks is called finning. When the sharks are caught with long-lines or drag nets, their fins are cut off and the animals are thrown back into the sea still alive where they suffer a painful death. Shark fins are a desirable delicacy in Asia. The fins are used for shark fin soup which is served on special occasions. Getty Images