Qiang Wang, aka Jeffrey Wang, a New York antiques dealer, was sentenced in federal court in Manhattan to 37 months in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release for conspiracy to smuggle Asian artifacts made from rhinoceros horns and ivory and violate wildlife trafficking laws.
Wang was arrested in February 2013 as part of “Operation Crash,” a nation-wide crackdown in the illegal trafficking in rhinoceros horns, for his role in smuggling “libation cups” carved from rhinoceros horns from New York to China. Wang was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Katherine B. Forrest of the Southern District of New York.
According to the information, plea agreement and statements made during court proceedings:
In China, there is a tradition dating back centuries of intricately carving rhinoceros horn cups. Drinking from such a cup was believed by some to bring good health, and antique carvings are highly prized by collectors. Libation cups and other ornamental carvings are particularly sought after in China and in other Asian countries, as well as in the United States. The escalating value of such items has resulted in an increased demand for rhinoceros horn that has helped fuel a thriving black market, including fake antiques made from more recently hunted rhinoceros.
In pleading guilty, Wang admitted to participating in a conspiracy to smuggle objects carved from rhinoceros horn and elephant ivory out of the United States knowing that it was illegal to export such items without required permits. Due to their dwindling populations, all rhinoceros and elephant species are protected under international trade agreements. Wang falsely labeled the packages in order to conceal the true contents and did not declare them as required. Special Agents with the U.S Fish & Wildlife Service executed a search of Wang’s apartment in Flushing, New York, and found documents showing Wang was involved in buying rhino horn and ivory artifacts and smuggling them to China. Agents seized two ivory carvings, including one found hidden behind Wang’s bed that were forfeited as part of the sentence. Numerous photographs of raw and carved rhinoceros horn, including approximately 10 different raw rhinoceros horns, were found on Wang’s computer and telephone consistent with a common practice of emailing or texting photographs of items for sale in order to receive instructions on whether to purchase the items and how much to pay. According to prosecutors, Wang had told other dealers that he was seeking raw rhino horns to send to China.
In addition to the prison term, Judge Forrest ordered Wang, 34, of Flushing, N.Y., to forfeit certain ivory goods in his possession, and banned him from all future trade in elephant ivory and rhino horn. Wang was also sentenced to serve a term of three years of supervised release.
Rhinoceros are an herbivore species of prehistoric origin and one of the largest remaining mega-fauna on earth. They have no known predators other than humans. More....