By Lauren Kirchner
Antique dealing isn’t a business we would usually associate with nefarious criminal enterprise. Except if the “antiques” being dealt happen to be decorative cups made from the horns of a recently-killed and highly endangered species, that is. One antique dealer in Flushing, New York, Qiang Wang, pleaded guilty on Wednesday to breaking federal wildlife trafficking laws, according to the Department of Justice.
Wang was arrested for his role in a conspiracy to smuggle artifacts made from rhinoceros horns and ivory between New York, Hong Kong, and China. International trade agreements protect all rhinoceroses and elephants and forbid the transport of products made from horn and ivory without special permits.
Wang’s arrest was just one of many made as a part of “Operation Crash,” an ongoing federal investigation into illegal poaching and smuggling. (“Crash” is the term for a group of rhinos, like a gaggle of geese.)
The crackdown kicked off last February when federal officials busted a pair of Los Angeles rhino-horn smugglers. Jimmy and Felix Kha admitted that they had bought over $2.5 million worth of rhino horns from U.S. suppliers, and then had bribed Vietnamese customs officials in preparation of exporting them overseas. In addition to the prison sentences they received, the judge in the case ordered that $800,000 in cash, gold, and jewels confiscated from them be given to a conservation group that protects rhinos in Africa.
Another antique dealer in New York who was busted at the same time was especially brazen--David Hausman was “offering his services to FWS special agents as an antiques expert who purportedly wanted to help the agency investigate this crime.” Meanwhile, he had several black market rhino horns and four entire rhino heads hidden in his Manhattan apartment. More....