US Government outlines efforts to combat wildlife trafficking
MOSCOW, September 10 (RAPSI, Ingrid Burke) – The US White House and Department of Justice (DOJ) released updated information Monday outlining efforts undertaken by the federal government to combat wildlife trafficking.
On the heels of a White House announcement Monday revealing the names of eight members of the Advisory Council to the Presidential Task Force on Wildlife Trafficking, the DOJ released an overview of legal initiatives taken in recent years to clamp down on the illicit trafficking of animals and their body parts. The Task Force was established by executive order in July of this year.
In a statement, Acting Assistant Attorney General Robert G. Drehar explained: “The illicit wildlife trade increasingly involves international organized crime and millions of dollars, and it is driving some protected species towards extinction in our own time. The Department of Justice treats these crimes with the utmost seriousness.”
A fact sheet accompanying the statement outlines prosecutorial efforts taken by the DOJ in pursuit of cases involving a wide range of black market activity, including the trafficking of: narwhal tusks, whale teeth, rhinoceros horns, the ivory of African elephants, and South African leopard hides and skulls, among other things.
In March 2011, Nantucket, Massachusetts antiques dealer David L. Place was sentenced to 33 months in prison after having been convicted of smuggling narwhal tusks and sperm whale teeth into the US. At the time, then-Assistant Attorney General for the DOJ’s Environment and Natural Resources Division Ignacia S. Moreno declared: “We will not tolerate the illegal market in endangered species such as the Narwhal and the Sperm Whale, and we will continue to prosecute those who violate the law.”
In March 2012, Miami taxidermist Enrique Gomez De Molina was sentenced to 20 months in prison for trafficking in endangered and protected wildlife. Citing court documents, the DOJ announced at the time that Molina had attempted to import a plethora of illicit animals and their parts. Among the items listed were: “the skin of a juvenile hawk-eagle,” and “the carcass remnant of a slow loris.” Further court records referenced by the statement noted that Molina allegedly imported a king cobra and “the skulls of babirusa and orangutans,” as well.
In August 2008, Canadian citizen Tania Siyam was sentenced to five years in prison for illegally smuggling ivory out of Cameroon, using art import and export businesses as fronts, according to the fact sheet.
More recently, in May 2013 Vinh Chuong “Jimmy” Kha and Felix Kha were sentenced to 42 and 46 months in prison respectively for crimes related to the international trafficking of rhinoceros horn. “It was that rising value of rhino horn that encouraged ruthless poachers to scour the South African wilderness in search of profits. The Khas played a role in pushing species like the African black rhino to the brink of extinction, which is why we aggressively prosecuted this case and sought lengthy prison terms,” explained US Attorney for the Central District of California André Birotte Jr., as quoted by a DOJ statement released at the time.