Antiques Dealer Pleads to Smuggling Rhino Horns

     MANHATTAN (CN) – An antiques dealer pleaded guilty Wednesday to conspiracy to smuggle Asian artifacts made from rhinoceros horns and ivory and violate wildlife trafficking laws.
     Officers had arrested Qiang Wang aka Jeffrey Wang in February 2013 as part of Operation Crash, a nationwide, multiagency crackdown into illegal rhinoceros trade. The operation takes its name from the term crash given for a herd of rhinoceros.
     Prosecutors said Wang was smuggling libation cups carved from rhinoceros horns from New York to Hong Kong and China.
     U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest presided over the entry of the guilty plea Wednesday and will hold a sentencing hearing on Oct. 25.
     Some Chinese people believe that drinking from rhinoceros horn cups with bring good health. The giant, prehistoric beasts are protected by U.S. and international laws. More than 90 percent of wild rhino populations have been slaughtered illegally since the 1970s, because of the price their horns can bring, the Justice Department says.
     “South Africa, for example, has witnessed a rapid escalation in poaching of live animals, rising from 13 in 2007 to more than 618 in 2012,” prosecutors said in the statement.
     The only predator of the rhinoceros is humans. Prosecutors said increasing demand is partly responsible for fueling a thriving black market that includes fake antiques made from recently hunted rhinoceros.
     “Between approximately January 2011 and February 2013, Wang conspired with at least two others to smuggle objects containing rhinoceros horn and elephant ivory out of the United States knowing that it was illegal to export such items without required permits,” the Justice Department said in a statement.
     Wang, 34, of Flushing, N.Y., pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy. The charge carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison.
     Law enforcement found an ivory statute hidden behind a bed in Wang’s apartment. It will be forfeited as part of the plea.

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