By Rhishja Cota-Larson
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., announced the guilty pleas of two ivory dealers identified as Mukesh Gupta and Johnson Jung-Chien Lu, along with the seizure of over $2 million in illegal ivory from their businesses, Raja Jewels Inc. and New York Jewelry Mart Corporation. Ivory dealers Gupta and Lu each pled guilty to one count of Illegal Commercialization of Wildlife.
DA Vance said in a media release that elephant killers “should not have a market in Manhattan”.
It is unacceptable that tusks from elephants wind up being sold as mass-produced jewelry and unremarkable decorative items in this city. Despite efforts to protect populations of endangered and threatened species, poachers are pushing them to the brink of extinction. This is an international problem that requires local solutions. In order to curb the poaching of elephants in Africa and Asia, we need to curb the demand side of the illegal ivory trade right here at home. Today’s cases are a small, but important, step in protecting endangered and threatened elephant species. This investigation is part of an ongoing and focused effort by my Office to combat environmental crimes and clamp down on the illegal ivory underground marketplace, which fuels the international poaching crisis.
Under their plea agreements, Gupta and Raja Jewels must forfeit elephant ivory with a retail value of nearly $2 million. They are also required to pay $45,000, which will be donated to the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) for use in combating the illegal ivory trade. Lu and New York Jewelry Mart must forfeit ivory valued at approximately $120,000, and pay $10,000 to be donated to the WCS.
In addition to selling ivory from his New York store Raja Jewels, Gupta supplied ivory to the other defendant Lu and his company, New York Jewelry Mart.
Because state laws treat ivory as a minor felony, Gupta and Lu probably would not have received prison sentences. DA Vance told the New York Times that states “should consider amending the law to provide harsher penalties for the sale of larger amounts of ivory”. More....