Texas Rhino-Horn Smuggler Sentenced

     (CN) – A Texas art appraiser has been sentenced to just over two years in prison for conspiring to smuggle rhino horns and elephant ivory out of the United States, the Justice Department said Thursday.
     Ning Qiu, 43, pleaded guilty to smuggling nearly $1 million worth of rhinoceros horns and objects made from rhino horns and elephant ivory to China. Federal prosecutors called him “a key player in a web of wildlife traffickers,” using his role as an Asian-art appraiser and antiquities dealer to pull off the scheme.
     Qiu will serve 25 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release. He will also pay a $150,000 fine which will go to the Lacey Act Reward Fund, established by a 115-year-old federal conservation law that prohibits trade in wildlife, fish and plants that have been illegally taken or sold.
     Rhino horns have great value in China, where they are carved into fake antiques and special “libation cups” that are highly prized by collectors. The scraps of horn are ground up and sold for medicinal purposes despite having none whatsoever.
     The International Union for the Conservation of Nature lists several species of rhino as critically threatened.
     Two of Qiu’s cohorts in the scheme have already been sentenced.

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