By Fiona Macleod
A father and son team from Orange County in California, described by prosecutors as being “at the apex of the rhino horn smuggling pyramid within the United States”, have each been sentenced to more than three years in jail on federal smuggling and money laundering convictions.
Vihn Chuong “Jimmy” Kha and his son, Felix Kha, ran a lucrative US-based smuggling operation that prosecutors linked to rising levels of rhino poaching in South Africa, where at least two of the endangered animals are presently killed each day.
Jimmy Kha (49), of Garden Grove, was sentenced to 42 months in federal prison and his son was sentenced to 46 months. The Khas must also pay a total of $20,000 in criminal fines and a $185,000 tax fraud penalty.
The duo ran a smuggling ring linked to the purchase of at least 232 rhino horns, which were exported to Vietnam and China to be made into carved libation cups and traditional medicines. Charges against them included dealing in 128 horns from black rhinos, the most threatened of Africa’s two species of rhinos, with just an estimated 3,600 left in the wild, down from about 70,000 in the late 1960s.
In sentencing papers, federal prosecutors contended that in 2008 the demand for rhino horn in Asia began to increase after a 20-year period of low poaching rates. Seeing the developing market, the Khas “knowingly chose to illegally supply rhino horn to meet the growing demand, thereby simply increasing that demand”. They had “helped to drive the commercial value of rhino horn from a very low level to nearly $25,000 per pound.” More....