By Rahima Gambo
A Chinese antiques dealer who prosecutors say was a minor player in an international rhino horn smuggling ring was sentenced Thursday to 37 months in prison for his role in the illegal trade scheme.
Dressed in a black suede blazer, Qiang Wang, listened to Mandarin translations as U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest sentenced him for his role in trafficking artifacts crafted from the horns of endangered rhinos.
Though Forrest followed the minimum set out in sentencing guidelines, Wang’s lawyer had asked for five years of probation and no prison time. Prosecutors had recommended a sentence of 12 months plus one day.
Forrest said that while Wang was not a significant player in the international marketplace for objects made from protected wildlife, she was “troubled” by his behavior, which she described as “repetitive and deliberate.”
The 34-year-old Wang, who once worked in a Buddhist temple in China but currently lives in Flushing, New York, had pleaded guilty in August to illegally trading libation cups carved from rhino horn and ivory to smuggle to Hong Kong.
Wang purchased Asian antiques from U.S. auction houses on behalf of foreign clients in China, according to the government’s 16-page sentencing memorandum. The sales of the artifacts were valued at over $1 million, but Wang only reported making an income of $8,000 to $8,500 a year on his tax returns, according to the memo.
The memo also outlines how Wang worked with at least two different smugglers in China, helping to “locate, purchase, transport and receive valuable objects made from and containing rhinoceros horn and elephant ivory for foreign bosses. “
The document states that Wang sought out new “bosses” and continued trading the illegal artifacts even after one of his bosses had been arrested and imprisoned in China for smuggling in 2011.
“That should have been a wake up call,” said Forrest pointing to Wang’s awareness that he was violating the law.
According to ancient Chinese custom, sipping from intricately carved libation cups made from rhino horn is believed to bring good health to the drinker. More....