Illegal wildlife trade of horns and tusks is a lucrative worldwide business. In recent years it has exploded into a black market worth of approximately $20 billion a year. No one seems to be exempt from this growing tragedy. Most obvious involvement lies in Africa, China and Vietnam; but Ireland, the US, and now even the Czech Republic and Poland have blood on their hands.
To police the snowballing issue, the US has stepped up involvement with Operation Crash. It is an ongoing nationwide criminal investigation led by the Fish and Wildlife Service, started in 2010, that is addressing all aspects of US involvement in the black market rhino horn trade.
The first phase of this probe (focused on the unlawful purchase and outbound smuggling of rhino horn from the US) has resulted in 14 arrests and six convictions to date. Charges filed include conspiracy, smuggling, money laundering, tax evasion and bribery in addition to violations of the Endangered Species Act.
Recently a father and son team described by federal prosecutor as being “at the apex of the rhino horn smuggling pyramid” in the United States, has been sentenced to more than three years in prison on federal wildlife smuggling and money laundering charges. Their involvement in horn smuggling played a direct role in driving the price of rhino horn to nearly $25,000 per lb. More....