In Boston federal court, trafficking case renews interest in ivory bill (Massachusetts, US)


William J. Dowd, Wicked Local North of Boston/New Media Investment Group

Date Published

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A trafficking case in a Boston federal court that recently surfaced brought renewed attention to the facsimile ivory bills filed by state Sen. Jason Lewis, D-Winchester, and Rep. Lori Ehrlich, D- Marblehead, in their respective State House chambers.

The two now urge passage of their proposed law after a federal court arraigned Guan Zong Chen Monday, July 24 on a grand jury’s 2015 indictment, alleging the Chinese national led a conspiracy to illegally export $700,000?s worth of wildlife items from the United States to Hong Kong.

The eight-count indictment claims Chen purchased the objects, made from rhinoceros horn, elephant ivory and coral, from six states. Chen, in return, coordinated the wildlife items’ shipment with help from a co-conspirator who owned a shipping business out of Concord, according to Ehrlich.

“In April 2014, Chen came to the United States and visited the shipper,” the U.S. Department of Justice wrote in a press release. “Chen instructed the shipper to illegally export a sculpture made from elephant ivory to Hong Kong on [his] behalf.”

The shipper, in return, packaged the items and exported them, according to the Justice Department, with documentation that falsely detailed the packages’ contents and value and without declaration or permits.

Chen’s arraignment was his first time in federal court since Australia’s federal police and attorney-general apprehended and extradited him to the U.S., according to federal officials. His arrest came as he traveled from Australia to China.

The case, while still playing out, places a narrative next to the lengths and means smugglers go through in trafficking ivory and rhino horns, according to Ehrlich’s office.

“The Concord ivory-trafficking case is one more in a long list of incidents which statutes and protections have needed improvement,” said Ehrlich.

Federal law and regulations outlaw ivory, rhino horn and coral importation, exportation and interstate trade, but an intrastate ban on their sale or trade is nonexistent within the Bay State’s borders.

Ehrlich and Lewis’ complementary bills aim to close that loop hole. The proposed law, co-sponsored by 95 lawmakers, would “prohibit the sale, offer for sale, purchase or possession with intent to sale” ivory or rhino horns.

Passage of the bill would also put a handful of exemptions for the sale and trade of ivory and rhino horns that meet specific criteria into place: Musicians with ivory instruments, antiques over 100 years old and for educational institutions’ collections among others.