Friday, June 6, 2014

Chinese ivory dealer gets 70 months in prison for smuggling 30 rhino horns from US

A notorious Chinese rhino horn trafficker, Zhifei Li, has been sentenced to 70 months in a US prison for his role in trafficking 30 rhinoceros horns and numerous other rhino and elephant ivory artifacts from the US to China. The sentence is one of the longest ever handed out in the US for wildlife crime. Zhifei Li, who owns an antique business in Shandong, China, called Overseas Treasure Finding, admitted he was the “boss” of three antique dealers in the US, each of whom he paid to obtain wildlife items and smuggle them to him via Hong Kong. His arrest in January 2013 happened when he was caught purchasing two endangered black rhinoceros horns from an undercover US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) agent during “Operation Crash”. This was a US nationwide effort led by the USFWS and the Justice Department to investigate and prosecute those involved in the illegal wildlife trade. “Li was the ringleader of a criminal enterprise that spanned the globe and profited from an illegal trade that is pushing endangered animals toward extinction,” said Sam Hirsch, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division. “As this case clearly demonstrates, rhino trafficking is increasingly organised, well financed, and a threat to the rule of law. The United States is resolved to bring wildlife traffickers to justice.” All species of rhinoceros are protected under United States legislation and commercial trade in rhinoceros horn is also not permitted under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). USFWS Director Dan Ashe said: “The sentence handed down today serves notice to other organised trafficking and poaching rings that their crimes will not go unpunished. We will relentlessly work across the US government and with the international law enforcement community to destroy these networks, while strengthening protections for rhinos in the wild and reducing demand for horn in consumer countries.” SOURCE: wildlife Extra, UK