A US judge jailed a Canadian antiques dealer for two-and-a-half years on Wednesday for smuggling rhinoceros horns, coral and elephant ivory.
Xiao Ju Guan, also known as Tony Guan, was arrested in March 2014 after buying two endangered black rhinoceros horns from undercover special agents in New York for $45,000. The 39-year-old from British Columbia, who also claimed to have an antiques business in Hong Kong, subsequently pleaded guilty to smuggling from the United States into Canada.
Federal judge Laura Swain sentenced him to 30 months for what she called ‘a very serious offense’ and conduct that had fueled ‘demand for the slaughter of rare and already endangered species.’ Poaching has risen sharply across Africa in recent years, driven by rising demand in Asia for ivory – which finds its way into jewelry and ornaments – and rhino horn, which is coveted as a traditional medicine.
More than 3,000 rhinos have been poached in South Africa alone since 2008 – up more than 7,000 percent on the previous 17 years – and 1,215 were poached in South Africa last year, the most on record, US prosecutors said in court papers. ‘Although Guan may not have personally slaughtered a rhino or an elephant, he nevertheless shares direct culpability for the illegal trade,’ they wrote.
Guan was arrested after flying from Vancouver to New York, accompanied by a paid interpreter who spoke English and Chinese.
After buying the horns, he posted them to an address in Washington state, less than a mile from the Canadian border. He labeled the box ‘handicrafts’ and indicated that he had people who could drive the horns across the border, prosecutors said. Canadian officers confiscated elephant ivory, coral and 50,000 ecstasy pills from his antique business. The wildlife objects had been bought via a Manhattan-based Internet auction business and smuggled into Canada, prosecutors said.