A New York antiques dealer has been sentenced to over three years in prison plus three years' supervised release by a US court for smuggling Asian artifacts made from rhinoceros horns and ivory from the US to China.
Qiang Wang, also known as Jeffrey Wang was sentenced to 37-month imprisonment followed by three years of supervised release for conspiracy to smuggle Asian artifacts made from rhinoceros horns and ivory and violate wildlife trafficking laws, Robert G Dreher, the Acting Assistant Attorney General from the Department of Justice, said.
Wang was arrested in February, 2013, as part of "Operation Crash", a nation-wide crackdown on the illegal trafficking in rhinoceros horns, for his role in smuggling "libation cups" carved from rhinoceros horns from New York to China.
He pleaded guilty to conspiracy for smuggling artifacts made from rhinoceros horns from the US to China and was sentenced in Manhattan federal court yesterday.
"Smuggling wildlife artifacts made from rhino horn and elephant ivory undermines the international conservation protections put in place to save these species from extinction," Dreher, from the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the Department of Justice, said.
The Justice Department said in China, there is a tradition dating back centuries of intricately carving rhinoceros horn cups. Drinking from such a cup was believed by some to bring good health and antique carvings are highly prized by collectors.
Libation cups and other ornamental carvings are particularly sought after in China and in other Asian countries, as well as in the US.
The escalating value of such items has resulted in an increased demand for rhinoceros horn that has helped fuel a thriving black market, including fake antiques made from recently hunted rhinoceros.
In pleading guilty, Wang admitted to participating in a conspiracy to smuggle objects carved from rhinoceros horn and elephant ivory out of the US knowing that it was illegal to export such items without required permits.
Due to their dwindling populations, all rhinoceros and elephant species are protected under international trade agreements.
Wang falsely labeled the packages in order to conceal the true contents and did not declare them as required, the Justice Department said.
Special Agents with the U S Fish & Wildlife Service executed a search of Wang's apartment in Flushing, New York, and found documents showing Wang was involved in buying rhino horn and ivory artifacts and smuggling them to China.
Agents seized two ivory carvings, including one found hidden behind Wang's bed that were forfeited as part of the sentence.
Numerous photographs of raw and carved rhinoceros horn, including approximately 10 different raw rhinoceros horns, were found on Wang's computer and telephone consistent with a common practice of emailing or texting photographs of items for sale in order to receive instructions on whether to purchase the items and how much to pay.