Endangered species smuggler pleads guilty

By Meg Olson

 

A Richmond antiques dealer accused of using a Point Roberts parcel service as part of a conduit to smuggle rhinoceros horns and elephant ivory has pleaded guilty in federal court.

Xiao Ju “Tony” Guan was arrested in March 2014 after flying from Vancouver to New York and purchasing two endangered black rhinoceros horns from undercover agents with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. He had the agents drive him and a female accomplice to an express mail store where he mailed them to an address in Point Roberts. “Guan indicated he had people who could drive the horns across the border and that he had done so many times before,” according to a U.S. Department of Justice press release.

On November 25, Guan, 39, pleaded guilty in a Manhattan courtroom to one count of attempted smuggling, dv0302184which carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison.

As part of his plea, Guan admitted he and others smuggled the same way more than $400,000 in rhino horns and sculptures made from ivory and coral, or by mailing them directly to Canada with false paperwork.

Guan is scheduled to be sentenced on March 13, 2015.

“The United States will aggressively prosecute anyone who illegally traffics in endangered wildlife species,” said acting assistant attorney general Sam Hirsch. “Rhinos and elephants are not antiques, as the president of an antique company engaged in international trade should know. These are iconic animals of prehistoric origin, fighting for their very survival as a species. The illegal trade in rhino horn and elephant ivory and the escalation of black market prices are directly related to horrific poaching on living animals.”

All species of rhinoceros are endangered, and elephant populations are either vulnerable or endangered. Adults of these species have no natural predators other than humans. They are protected under U.S. and international laws.

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